NHS trust borrows £13m to pay bills

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THE NHS trust which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital is having to take out a £13m emergency loan as it struggles to pay its bills.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust – which is repaying £3.6m a month towards the new Cosham ‘superhospital’ – has been forced to borrow the cash from regional health bosses.

It comes as managers predict a £6m deficit at the end of this financial year with further job losses not being ruled out.

Robert Toole, director of finance at the trust, said it may also be forced to borrow more money.

He said: ‘We’ve got a challenging financial position.

‘We had a deficit of £14.9m last year and we’re likely to have a deficit of £6m at the end of this year.

‘A consequence of this deficit position is that it places pressure on the trust’s cash balances.

‘The trust has therefore made arrangements with the Strategic Health Authority and NHS Portsmouth to receive a cash allocation, which will enable the trust to continue to meet its financial commitments in full.

‘The money should support us for this year but we’ve got significant cost reductions to make next year and we may have a requirement for more support.’

The trust has been in financial difficulty for some time and has been overspending by about £700,000 each month.

It had to make £37m savings this year and has successfully accounted for £21m so far.

But it estimates it can only make a further £8m by March – the end of this financial year.

The problems are set to continue as services move out of the hospital and into the community – resulting in a drop in income and potentially more job losses.

Mr Toole could not say when the trust would start breaking even but said it would be ‘very challenging’ to turn things around next year.

Arrangements for paying back the £13m to the South Central Strategic Health Authority are being discussed.

Mr Toole said: ‘If work is transferred out of the hospital, we would expect our workforce to reduce. We would expect some staff to move into the community with the services.’

Jock McLees, chairman of the Portsmouth Local Involvement Network patient group, said the latest loan was ‘worrying’.

‘We do not believe that Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is alone in its current financial situation. We are told there are other trusts in similar positions,’ he said.

‘Something’s got to give but all we can see at the moment is more demands by the government to make savings which simply put the trust in an increasingly difficult position.

‘We’ve got to keep as close an eye as possible on what’s happening and the day that patient care starts to suffer we will shout loud and long.’

Jo Gooch, director of finance for NHS Portsmouth, which funds services the hospital trust provides, added: ‘We do need to find a long-term solution to the hospital trust’s financial position so that they do not need to ask for help in managing their cash flow.’