Royal Bolton Hospital already dipping into its £2.2 million reserve fund
HOSPITAL chiefs will have to dip into a £2.2 million “risk reserve” fund in order to meet annual savings targets.
And with the notoriously tough winter period ahead, balancing the books will be even harder at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
The £2.2 million reserve fund was set aside by Bolton NHS Foundation Trust to account for “unforeseen expenses” in the year and ensure the trust reduces its deficit to £7.8million by next April.
The trust, which was £14.6 million in deficit at the end of the 2012/13 financial year, has borrowed more than £17 million from the Department of Health, and has to save £22 million this financial year.
But monthly finance reports indicate this target will not be met.
A report published by the Finance and Investment Committee stated: “It remains unlikely that full turnaround will be delivered in the current year.
“Limited assurances provided that the Trust will still achieve its overall plan deficit of £7.8 million, albeit not as planned.”
The “unforseen expense” for the trust is down to bosses reinvesting £2 million in nursing staff.
The trust had originally made £2 million in savings by introducing the new 12-hour shift pattern to reduce the amount of nurses during the hand-over period.
This £2 million would have contributed to debt reduction — but hospital chiefs chose to instead reinvest in nursing staff.
As a consequence, they must use the risk reserve to hit their deficit target this year.
Simon Worthington, director of finance at the Trust, said the reserve is being used to protect the quality of care for patients.
Mr Worthington added: “As part of our financial plan for the year the Trust set aside £2.2 million to cover the risk of some of the savings that we were looking to make not happening.
“It is normal practice for NHS organisations to make such provisions.
“The board has decided to reinvest some of the savings we have made into improving quality, also a number of savings plans have not been implemented because of concerns over the quality impact. Consequently the £2.2 million risk reserve is being used to replace these savings.”
In August 2012, a damning report by Monitor put the trust at the highest risk levels, revealing financial failings, weak governance and leadership, and a failure to meet healthcare targets.
Andy Morgan, who sits on the health scrutiny board, said patient care should always be prioritised.
He added: “The trust should not be dipping into reserves until the pressures of the winter period have passed. The priority must be patient care and until the reserve is free, they should not be dipping into that money.
“The winter period can see a spike in flu viruses and winter vomiting which can mean closing wards.
“They need resources to be able to cope with extra capacity in other parts of the hospital. Patient care should be prioritised over reducing the deficit.”
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