Staff at Basildon Hospital are being pressed to think of ways to save cash, as bosses revealed they are paying staff more than they can afford.

The move comes as it was revealed the hospital has a £9million deficit, which finance chiefs say is “unsustainable”.

The issue of paying temporary staff inflated wages has once again been brought sharply back into focus.

Bosses admit unless things turn around at the hospital, which is already in special measures, they risk even further sanctions.

The hospital would not reveal to the Echo what was involved in its huge savings plan, but insisted patient services will not be affected.

Chief executive Clare Panniker said: “Staff from across the hospital will be asked to identify ways in which they can still provide high quality care which costs less and will improve standards for patients.

“In 2014/15, continuing work to improve care while ensuring the trust doesn’t spend more than it earns is our top priority.

“As part of this commitment, the trust is launching a new cost-improvement programme to deliver a £17million saving – 6 per cent of its annual turnover.”

In the past year, the Echo has uncovered: 

- The hospital is currently working with a £9million deficit – compared to a   surplus of just £981,000 in March 2013

- A botched savings programme designed to make £19million savings in 2013/14, only acheived £10million

 - Fortnightly emergency meetings have been called to quell the escalating cost of temporary staff, with the hospital still paying £2million in February and March on agency staff despite a well-publicised drive for permanent positions

 - Government health watchdog Monitor has dropped its Financial Risk Rating from three to two – meaning it could look at the hospital much more closely.

The trust admits it is currently paying staff more than it can afford, but wages are set nationally by the NHS, meaning savings will most likely have to come from elsewhere.

Each clinical department has had at least one business review to see where cash can be saved.

Staff will be sent on procurement training courses so they comply with tighter regulations when buying and ordering.

Over the past year, the hospital went from having £35million in the bank to £20.6million, with the trust insisting this went on improving standards after the Keogh Review, which placed the hospital in special measures.


Health watchdog could keep close eye on hospital

A health watchdog will now keep a closer eye on the hospital’s dealings after its perilous financial position was revealed.

The hospital is ranked at number two out of four in Monitor’s Financial Risk Rating, meaning it could request monthly update reports as the year progresses.

The hospital insists Monitor is fully aware of the hospital’s finances and is happy for the trust to continue into 2014/15 with a planned deficit.

However, bosses admit if things don’t improve they run the risk of Monitor stepping in.

The hospital has stressed the trust’s financial ranking is nothing to do with the special measures put on the hospital, because that is in regard to standards of care and governance at the trust.

Monitor is employed as a watchdog to Foundation Trusts, meaning that they have harsher criteria to fulfil.

AN MP has said the hospital must balance its books – and improve standards fast.

Basildon Hospital claims much of its financial position owes to making investments into better care for patients following its dive into special measures.

Southend Standard:

MP: Hospital must shore up its finances

Stephen Metcalfe (above, far left), Tory MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, said he hopes to meet with Trust bosses to talk about the situation, but he still has confidence in the hospital’s management.

He said: “I know some costs have increased because of extra beds and nurses, and patient care has improved which is welcomed, but they have to balance their books.

“They have to balance their books to continue this programme of improvement but I don’t want to see any services cut or reduced.

“Hopefully they will be able to find the 6 per cent saving from better procedures.”