Health Trust cuts Queen Alexandra Hospital deficit in half and promises to wipe out £7m that’s remaining

The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.
The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

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QUEEN Alexandra Hospital has revealed its plan to get back in the black.

In just a year Portsmouth Hospitals NHS trust, which runs QA, has cut its underlying deficit in half, falling from £14m to £7m.

And at the end of the last financial year in March, the trust finished with a surplus of £800,000.

Now this cash, along with a plan to improve patient flow in QA, and the bringing in of new services, will be used to clear the remaining £7m, and help the hospital become more sustainable for the future.

Ben Lloyd, pictured, the director of finance and investment at the trust, said the deficit reduction has been done through various projects, including renegotiating better contracts for supplies and equipment, and improving patient flow through the hospital, which reduces bottlenecks and wasted resources.

It has already saved £18m through one-off incomes and savings to help bridge the shortfall between income and expenditure, as NHS budgets are not growing in line with costs.

And this year the trust needs to focus on two things – improving flow further from patients coming in through A&E, which affects the running of services across the hospital, and maximising use of QA’s facilities through bringing more services back to the hospital site.

Mr Lloyd said: ‘A lot of the bigger savings have been one-off, so now the challenge is to make changes that are sustainable.

‘Although the government says the healthcare budget is protected, it does not feel like it.

‘We have not had a cut in our budget, but what we are facing is an increasing ageing population, and changes in technology puts pressure on our stretched resources.

‘There are new drugs and treatments patients can have, so we are trying to offer more on the same income.

‘If one drug treatment plan does not work for a patient, then we can offer them other options for other treatment.

‘We are also developing robotic surgery, which is great news for our patients.

‘The budget is protected in that money is not being cut, but it isn’t growing to keep pace with increasing running costs.’

In the financial year ending March 2013, the trust had an underlying deficit – an accumulated deficit – of £14m, which Mr Lloyd said was largely as a result of going into the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract.

The PFI is a 30-year contract with Carillion, which enabled the super-hospital to be built at a cost of £256m.

The trust pays £45.8m a year as part of this contract.

He added: ‘It will be five years in June that the trust entered the PFI.

‘We are managing fine with our PFI – the benefits of it are brilliant.

‘The benefits are we have a new facility that is purpose-built. We do not need to renegotiate the payment plan of the PFI.’

With this is mind, Mr Lloyd believes the trust is in a good financial position.

Mr Lloyd said: ‘About 50 per cent of hospital trusts in the country are in financial trouble.

‘The average waiting times are starting to creep back up on a national level.

‘Against that backdrop I think Portsmouth has performed very well.

‘We have reduced the length of stay of patients in hospital.

‘Patients are being seen quicker and waiting shorter times for surgery, as clinics are more efficient and we are also moving to extending our work into the weekends by having more senior consultants on.’

Other changes include:

*Cancer waiting times, except urology, are meeting targets (additional urology staff being recruited by July).

*Referral time to treatment (18 weeks waiting list) is being met in most cases and overall waiting times are reducing.

*Use of operating theatres increased from 86 per cent to 90 per cent.

Governor says financial sustainability is key for hospital to achieve foundation status

BALANCING the books is key for QA’s hospital trust if it wants to achieve foundation trust status.

Becoming a foundation trust (FT) would mean the trust is under less government control, and able to work independently to allocate money to the areas it sees as a priority for the region.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is not yet an FT, which is why showing it is sustainable is so vital.

Now looking ahead, the trust wants to ensure it becomes sustainable.

Ben Lloyd, finance director for PHT, said: ‘Our big push for this year is sustainability.

‘We need to ensure this hospital is running to full capacity, and all of it is being used to best effect.

‘We need to bring back patients that are being treated elsewhere, and get them back into their local hospital.

‘And A&E waiting times is still our Achilles heel. The department works well, but we need to improve patient flow throughout the rest of the hospital.’

This year the trust plans to:

n Expand critical care so patients in other hospitals local to QA can be brought back here after major surgery.

n Bring electrophysiology back from Brighton.

n Invest further on dermatology and gastroenterology services.

Councillor Will Purvis is a trust governor.

He said: ‘Sorting finances has been a massive priority for the trust, so this is a great thing.

‘If you are going to protect front-line services then getting the finances right is key, so this is a step in the right direction.’