Hospital funding Uproar

PUBLISHED: 12:33 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:47 25 August 2010

A LEADING doctor claims more frontline hospital services could be cut a year after three trusts merged in a bid to save money.

A LEADING doctor claims more frontline hospital services could be cut a year after three trusts merged in a bid to save money.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which was formed a year ago, has a historic debt of £196 million and has lost £46.7 million since the hospital trusts merged on April 1 last year.

Bosses decided to merge the debt ridden PFI hospitals of Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough, (PRUH) the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich (QEH) and the non-PFI Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, to cut costs.

But Dr John Lister, from pressure group London Health Emergency, said the situation was "desperate" and fears the only way they could make savings would be to cut frontline hospital services.

He said: That £196 million deficit will be hanging around their necks like an albatross. It means they haven't got a clue what is going on.

"The situation is desperate and there is no way they are going to make its targets. Unfortunately there is very little scope to make substantial savings without cutting frontline services.

"Merging two financially disastrous PFI projects together with QMS just makes one big disastrous trust. It was rather predictable. The underlying problem is that the PCT's are not giving the hospitals enough money.

"The only real long term big savings they can make is to close QMS."

Primary Care Trust bosses decided to axe QMS of it's A&E and restructure provision over the three hospital sites as part of a cost cutting exercise A Picture of Health.

This was despite widespread opposition from residents and the Times' Save Our Services campaign.

A year ago bosses claimed the three hospitals debt stood at £187.2 million but this has now been confirmed to stand at £196 million.

Hospital bosses say they "haven't yet had the full benefits realisation of the merger in terms of savings from restructuring the organisation."

Former director of midwifery at QMS Mary Broadhurst MBE, from Bexley, said: "I am furious they are still losing money.

"One of the problems is that QEH and the PRUH are PFI hospitals and they have to pay huge sums a month to pay off their debts. And QMS is being sucked in and being used to pay off their debts."

Although the merged Trust is overspending by millions, its spokesperson claims it has already managed to save £21million since the merger and they anticipate this will increase to £24million by the end of the financial year.

A spokesperson for the Trust added: "Our initial focus on improving quality of care meant that the restructuring from a site based management structure to a divisional cross-site system hadn't been implemented until before Christmas. The restructuring has allowed the Trust to start reducing the workforce from the top end management side of the organisation and this process will continue into the next financial year.

"We are now implementing very tight limits on spending. We have started to make progress and will be stringent in the next 12 months to get these matters right.

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