Jobs on line as hospital cuts costs

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The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) said it cannot not rule out job losses as it looks to make £30m of savings by April 2014.

In a letter to staff this week, the trust said it faced a “serious financial challenge”, in that if it failed to bring its finances under control, it could become insolvent.

It said that “doing nothing was not an option” and was now looking at ways to make savings and improve efficiency.

In the letter, the trust said: “There have been rumours that the trust might run out of money and be unable to pay wages.

“The reason this isn’t happening is we are continuing to take action to prevent it, which over the coming weeks and months will be evident as together, we start to make the important changes to our services that are needed.

“We are introducing stricter controls on costs such as recruitment restrictions and tightening spending limits on the purchase of services and supplies.

“This trust will not put finance before the safety of anyone who uses our hospitals.” This financial year, the trust received an extra £5m from the Department of Health and £5m from NHS North Lancashire.

It employs 4,894 members of staff across its sites, not including bank and agency staff, and as part of its cost saving measures it will look at its current capacity, with a view to “matching this with demand”.

A new operating model, including the adoption of new technology and the creation of shared resources, will initially concentrate on the role of the 165 medical secretaries the trust employs.

It will also look at its “nursing establishment”, investigating nursing staffing levels, consistent shift times and overlap and budgets.

The trust said it would seek to limit reductions by reducing the number of bank and agency staff and replacing them with permanent staff and redeployment of staff.

This year the trust spent an average of £970,000 a month on temporary agency employees, compared with an average of £500,000 per month in the previous financial year.

As part of its efficiency drive, the trust said it would now look at “discretionary spend”, and how it can reduce the amount spent on premium payments for agency staff.

Another area it said it would focus on is the length of stay for patients.

It said this would not mean a closure of services, but, for example, increasing the number of day surgery operations as opposed to keeping patients in hospital unnecessarily overnight, which ramp up costs. Sickness absence is another area the trust will look at, which cost around £1.17m in 2011/12.

Other areas include seeking a better deal for products and services, the amount spent on energy and other estates services and improving the use of theatres.

The trust said that staff briefings had been arranged to discuss the plans, with a briefing to take place at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on April 5 between 12pm and 1pm. See page 9 for more details on the new health service consultation.