We are pleased that the financial outlook at Queen Alexandra Hospital appears to be looking healthier.
Balancing the books is never an easy job, especially in the health service where budgets may be frozen but are not increased to cope with the rising cost of supplies in an age of austerity.
But a hospital that is financially buoyant and does not have huge deficits hanging over it is vital for the city and its surrounding area.
The population is ageing, people are demanding more sophisticated treatments, and the pressure for the NHS to perform is not going away. So it is good news that the trust can continue their bid to become an NHS Foundation Trust, which will give the hospital greater financial freedom to provide the kind of services that are needed locally.
Cash flow projections are probably far from the minds of most patients, who simply want an excellent service and facilities.
The majority of people get this and walk away happy, but the harsh truth is that a lot of what is provided comes down to what can be paid for, and there are many conflicting pressures on the hospital, as our Under Pressure Week highlighted this year.
In order to prevent money being squandered, all health services, including GPs and social services, must work together to ensure there are fewer wasted trips to hospital and services are targeted at people who really need them. It is also imperative that health in this city is seen as a whole, holistically, and that, say, QA’s accident and emergency unit does not have to take the workload – and the cost – of coping with people who would be better off elsewhere.
For example, extending out-of-hours GP consultations could help the casualty department. And community units for the elderly could take the edge off so-called bed-blocking in hospital. It’s not to say that a steps as easy as that would solve the hospital’s financial situation, but it’s a case of the interlinked nature of health and social care needing a joined-up approach.
As today’s report outlines, QA appears to be heading in the right direction. We hope it continues to do so.