Shorter hospital stays as Vic budget is cut by £20m

Chief executive of Blackpool Victoria Hospital Gary Doherty
Chief executive of Blackpool Victoria Hospital Gary Doherty
  • Hopital has budget cut by £20m
  • Shortfall of £11m predicted
  • Technology to be used to treat patients at home
  • Reliance on agency staff to be tackled
  • Trust boss pledges not to ‘discharge frail, elderly patients’
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Hospital bosses are set to order further belt-tightening measures after it emerged they are £1m behind budget.

Blackpool Victoria Hospital is already having to shave £20m off its budget this year, and is now predicting a deficit of £11m – more than twice last year’s £5m loss.

We can negotiate better rates, do more to retain our staff and try to reduce the length of stay of patients

Gary Doherty

Campaigners today warned there was little else that could be done to make more savings.

Coun David Owen, chairman of the 38 Degrees Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre NHS Supporters group,warned: “All the obvious routes for making savings have been exhausted.”

But Gary Doherty, chief executive of the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospital Trust, said he was confident the Trust could meet its spending targets despite the challenges it faces.

He said there were no plans to close wards but measures would include reducing the amount of time patients spend in hospital.

It was also vital to cut the amount spent on using agency staff which last year cost £14m.
Mr Doherty said: “It is concerning to be off plan in terms of our budget and our challenge is to do the things we need to do to get back onto plan.

“And even then we will end the year on an £11m deficit. However around 90 per cent of Trusts will finish the year in a deficit.

“This summer we have started a major review and are looking at a five-year plan to make us work more efficiently.
“Last year we spent around £14m on agency staff. I think there is a lot we can do to reduce that.

“We can negotiate better rates, do more to retain our staff and try to reduce the length of stay of patients.”

He added the hospital was working with councils and GPs to ensure services were run as efficiently as possible, while advances in technology also meant some patients spending less time on a ward.

He said: “Part of our major planning is to reduce the length of stay, then we can reduce bed numbers and we can save money in areas such as the use of agency staff.

“This doesn’t mean discharging frail, elderly patients – but it does mean looking at new ways of working.

“Technology can help patients in their own homes for example by remote monitoring, which means we can call them into the hospital when we need to but we are not bringing people in unnecessarily.
“Another example is intravenous therapy which could mean someone having to stay in hospital for three to seven days.

“But now 90 per cent of patients who have IV, go to a clinic at one of our community health centres or we can go to them in their own home.

“What we are finding is that patients themselves prefer this.”

Cutting agency costs is another priority for the hospital which currently has vacancies for around 100 nurses and 50 doctors.

Mr Doherty said: “This year we agreed to put £1.5m into the budget for extra nurses but the problem is recruiting them, and if we can’t do that we end up using agency staff which costs two or three times more.
“I think there is a very good chance of getting back on plan and more importantly doing this work to make sure that in five years’ time we are in a good position when hopefully there will be more national funding for the NHS.

“I understand how important the NHS is to people and their families.

“What would be great is if people, and I’m not judging people, could stop smoking or smoke a little less, drink a bit less, eat a bit better and do some exercise.

“I’m not talking about living like a monk, and you don’t have to go to the gym every night, but perhaps play in the garden with your children.

“People will be healthier individuals and they will be helping the NHS for years to come.”

The £11m deficit will be taken from the Trust’s reserves of £20m.

But campaigners say the government should be investing more money into the NHS.

Coun Owen said: “The reality is we already have one of the most efficient health services in the Western world, with spending per head lagging behind much of Western Europe and North America.

“During the last Parliament, increased spending was the lowest since the NHS was formed, and the present Government continues to throttle the life out of the service by demanding totally unrealistic savings.

“The Government’s attitude to the service’s requirements can only be described as cruel, and there will be dire consequences unless it recognises the massive damage being caused by its acute underfunding. The Government continue to claim the NHS is safe in their hands, but the truth is the exact opposite, as the plight of Victoria and scores of other hospitals makes clear.”

The Conservatives made a pre-election promise that the NHS would receive £8bn more in annual funding by 2020, a figure which Chancellor George Osborne confirmed following the election.