The NHS regulator Monitor has indicated that a North East hospital trust is to be investigated owing to poor financial performance.
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust faces a budget deficit in the region of £15 million for the next financial year.
Monitor has stated that it intends to examine the trust in order to “better understand the causes of the financial challenge” that the organisation evidently faces.
This issue is just the latest indication of massive financial problems in the NHS.
With several trusts having already been investigated for similar difficulties, Monitor has been occupied on a very regular basis with economic issues.
The busy nature of the regulator reflects the fact that the NHS faces a £2 billion total deficit in the existing financial year.
The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of acute and community services to nearly 600,000 people in and around Durham and Darlington.
Commenting on the issue Paul Chandler, regional director at Monitor, was cautiously optimistic that the regulator would be able to help the trust make steps in the right direction.
“We know the trust, like much of the NHS, is facing a serious financial challenge but we are going to help find out what more what can be done to get a grip of the situation. Thousands of people across the region rely on the services this trust provides, so we will work quickly to determine what support the trust needs to help ensure the necessary improvements are made.”
There has yet to be a decision on whether regulatory action will be taken. But precedent has been set recently, with Monitor insisting on such action with several NHS trusts.
Sue Jacques, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, defended the trust, stating that it was the first time that it had been in deficit.
“A key challenge is the cost of medical and nursing bank and agency. This has been a pressure for trusts nationally in meeting new recommended staffing levels, at a time when unplanned activity continues to increase. Steps we have taken include new in-house bank arrangements and recruitment abroad, and these are already having an impact. The Trust’s nurse agency costs are down from £1.33m in June to £635,000 in November. There is more to do, particularly in addressing the cost of medical agency staff.”
90% of NHS trusts have recorded a deficit in the most recent financial year.
And this latest investigation follows intervention from the Care Quality Commission, which stated back in September that inspections indicated that numerous trusts need improvements to be conducted.