PATIENTS and staff will have to do without a Christmas tree outside the Royal Bolton Hospital this year because of budget cuts.

Hospital chiefs have decided that the ninemetre- tall tree, which is usually placed annually on the main driveway into the hospital opposite accident and emergency, costs too much.

As bosses review spending at the cashstrapped hospital, it was revealed that the price of moving the tree, assembling it and disposing of it after Christmas would be well over £1,000.

The hospital trust, which announced on November 14 that it would have to make 500 job cuts, including compulsory redundancies, is more than £11 million in the red.

It has to save £38 million in the next two years because of government cuts and has borrowed £10 million from the Department of Health.

Health watchdog Monitor has intervened following a damning financial report, and a £1 million “turnaround team” has been brought in to make savings.

Staff were told via their intranet that the main Christmas tree would not be put up in an effort to save money.

There will still be three other Christmas trees in the hospital.

The maternity unit and the children’s outpatients unit will both have a 2.5-metre tree and there will be an artificial tree in the main reception.

Stephen Tyldsley, the trust’s associate director of estates and facilities, said: “Due to the trust’s financial difficulty and constraints on financial department budgets, it has been decided that this year, the tree we purchase is a non-essential financial spend which would be over £1000.

“This cost is so high as the tree requires the hire of transport, lifting equipment, labour and cost to remove and dispose of the tree.

“This decision will be reviewed in the future, dependant on the trusts’ financial position.”

Volunteer manager Anne Arthur, who runs the Womens’ Royal Service at the hospital, said: “It is nice to have something to look at when you come into the grounds and it will be missed, but I think people will understand why, with the way things are at the moment.”