Lister Hospital trust is in the red, and the finance gap will get bigger next year

Lister Hospital, Stevenage

Lister Hospital, Stevenage - Credit: Archant

The NHS trust which runs Stevenage’s Lister Hospital ended the financial year in the red, its chief executive revealed on Tuesday.

Chief executive of East and North Herts NHS Nick Carver

Chief executive of East and North Herts NHS Nick Carver - Credit: Archant

And the deficit is likely to get bigger next year, Nick Carver told the annual meeting of the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

The £3.6 million deficit already on the books is the NHS trust’s first for seven years, but it only amounts to about one per cent of its turnover.

But next year finance chiefs are expecting to end up with an £8 million deficit, while still delivering a further £18 million worth of savings.

Mr Carver said that the dip into the red had been caused by higher than expected costs dealing with emergencies and in moving services into the enlarged Lister site – previously those costs would have been met by the government, which refused to stump up.

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He pointed to other NHS trusts which have run up much larger deficits, but promised: “We are not taking this lightly.”

The ambitious savings target comes on top of £25 million cut from costs last year – £650,000 in energy bills alone.

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Despite the deficit disappointment, Mr Carver said the year under review had been one of tremendous achievement.

On top of the £150 million invested on the Lister site, nearly a third of the NHS trust’s staff had seen changes to their jobs during a period of intense change. “I am extremely proud that there were fewer than 10 redundancies in this process, and none in clinical roles,” he said.

The new facilities have helped the NHS trust attract high-quality staff, he said, and a recruitment drive continued although the vacancy rate stands at around five per cent.

“I am astonished and humbled by the quality of the people who want to work for us,” he said.

“A huge thank you goes to our staff, to our 500 volunteers, to political leaders for their support in delivering these new facilities and to the community for trusting us, and for their tolerance as the work continued.”

Analysis of early statistics shows patients are getting the benefit of streamlined systems and new working practices, but there is always pressure on what the Lister can provide.

In the past 12 months the number of planned in-patients has increased by 10 per cent, out-patients are up seven per cent, and emergency admissions have soared by 20 per cent – that’s 20 patients a day.

Emergency medicine consultant Dr Jon Baker revealed that the numbers now passing through his state of the art department are now equivalent to one in five of the district’s population each year.

The Care Quality Commission will be carrying out a four-day inspection of the trust’s operations in October, but Mr Carver said: “We have plenty to be proud of and nothing to hide.”

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