East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust says it is sustainable after board papers warn it ‘could run out of money without shift in emphasis’

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust has said fundamental changes need to be made if the organ

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust has said fundamental changes need to be made if the organisation is to remain viable. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The NHS trust which runs Stevenage’s Lister Hospital and Welwyn Garden City’s New QEII Hospital has warned that “there is a very real danger [it] will run out of money and [their] supply of people will dry up”.

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust chief excutive Nick Carver has moved to clarify the trust's financial health, and said it is "not an unsustainable trust" - but "quite the contrary".

The chief executive's comments come after board papers from a public meeting which discussed the NHS trust's People and Organisational Strategy going forward said: "We cannot continue to operate the way we have and expect to deliver sustainable quality improvement. We have to invest in technology, new models of working and build our capacity and capability to maximise the care and expertise of the people we employ.

"Without a shift in emphasis and methodology there is a very real danger we will run out of money, our supply of people will dry up, our employment model will become too expensive and our people will become so disaffected that they leave.

"Ultimately, the trust will become unsustainable. This is not an exaggeration - it is clearly predicted by our financial and people data projections."

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Pressures including Brexit affecting staff numbers, and Herts seeing a 20 per cent increase in people aged 70+ between 2011-18 were also cited.

Seeking to clarify what was in the board papers, Mr Carver said: "The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, like many other NHS trusts, has been in financial recovery for the last few years. However we are optimistic that after a deficit of almost £30 million in 2016/7, we are on track to achieve our financial target of break-even at the end of 2019/20.

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"With two months until the end of the financial year we are by no means complacent, but we know that it is within our capabilities. This is not an unsustainable trust - quite the contrary.

"While our progress has also been good in growing a caring and compassionate workforce (lower vacancy rate and turnover, more employees, and less money spent on agency staff), we know we have more to do to ensure a workforce fit for the future. This means looking at different ways of working and ensuring that we have the right people and skills on our workforce to help us make the most of new ways of caring for our patients, and new technologies.

"If we did not look at how we adapt to the changing expectations of our workforce, we run the risk of our staff being disaffected and leaving - which would threaten our sustainability. The People and Organisational Strategy is our response, showing how we will work with our people to work, grow, thrive and care together - and continue to deliver sustainable, high-quality care to the people of East and North Herts."

Mr Carver pointed to progress already being made in that regard, with a net inflow of registered nurses where nationally there is a net outflow.

He said employee numbers were up overall, including an increase of 21 new full-time nurses, and that the NHS trust's spend on agency staff has reduced by £1.3m since 2018/19.

The strategy also acknowledged an increase in bullying from bosses - a national problem within the NHS. It says: "Lack of available capital has reduced vital investment in infrastructure and development and our staff often have to compensate. Leadership behaviour from the very top of the NHS, during this time of pressure, has led to an increase in accusations of bullying, harassment and discrimination."

Mr Carver added: "We have made excellent progress over the last year in improving recruitment, retention and development of our people. However, we have more to do to improve.

"Our staff have said their leaders need to fully reflect the values of the NHS - we need to see where we are falling short and seek to be better for our people.

"Meaningfully engaging staff during times of financial recovery is not easy, and we need to better demonstrate a compelling, compassionate approach where our people are central to our success. For example, we will emphasise service improvement ahead of simple financial savings.

"We are committed to investing in our people to support them to provide the highest quality care to our community."

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