A major foundation trust in the north east of England has been handed a major funding boost as the health service looks to improve treatment in that region of the country.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has secured an additional £1.15m of funding boost amid financial difficulties for the health service.
The extra money is intended to support work to take a national lead on radical new options for the future of local hospitals across the country, and thus the foundation trust has asserted that the NHS as a whole will benefit.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens announced in September that the trust was one of only three organisations selected to spearhead work to develop new ways of working known as ‘multi-hospital chains’.
The funding will be derived from the £200 million fund already earmarked for the NHS to assist such transformational projects.
By creating Northumbria Foundation Group, the work will enable the trust to widen the support and services it provides to other organisations, building on the success of work already taking place.
The Northumbria trust will then be put in the privileged and responsible position of being required to share its clinical knowledge and expertise across the NHS.
Spreading innovation and best practice will be central to this ethos, but the Northumbria trust will also provide corporate services to other similar organisations in the health service.
David Evans, Northumbria Healthcare’s chief executive, commented that the trust was uniquely qualified to take on this responsible new role.
“With many years of successfully running multiple sites within hospital and community settings across a large geographical area, we have vast amounts of experience to share with the wider NHS. Given this experience and our track record of delivering improvements with our work with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, we are ideally placed to spearhead this exciting work and form a foundation group.”
Evans also took time to explain how the funding will specifically assist the Northumbria trust in carrying out its duties and vision for the future.
“This funding will help us bring our vision to life and enable us to progress our plans to share our knowledge and expertise, helping to drive up standards across the UK, while creating vast efficiencies through sharing corporate functions.”
Northumbria Healthcare has been in a ‘buddy trust’ arrangement with North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust since 2013.
This has enabled the two organisations to provide an extensive range of clinical and managerial expertise.
And both argue that this has led to a significant improvement in the safety and quality of patient care hospitals in locations such as Carlisle and Whitehaven.
Figures acquired by Monitor indicate that the Heart of England Foundation Trust is suffering from a serious financial deficit.
According to the health regulator, a lack of rigorous financial control at the foundation trust will lead to a deficit in the region of £63 million during the fiscal year.
Monitor has emphasised that it is essential for the Heart of England Foundation Trust to implement a recovery plan as soon as possible.
Papers published ahead of a board meeting show that spending on clinical staff has increased by 10 per cent this year alone at the Birmingham trust.
The documents indicate that the trust overspent by nearly £6.5 million in September, with a £7 million overspend in August.
Figures acquired from the Birmingham-based foundation trust indicate that the year-to-date deficit of the organisation is in the region of £36 million.
Mitigating action is clearly required immediately, with a likely deficit of £63 million resulting even if such initiatives are implemented.
A financial recovery plan, now being validated by consultancy EY and the trust’s new leadership, seeks to cut this to £32.8m.
Just last month, Dame Julie Moore and Jacqui Smith, the chief executive and chair of neighbouring University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust respectively, were named as the new bosses of Heart of England Foundation Trust.
Based on documents provided by the board of the foundation trust, the deficit is reflective of the fact that investment has been required during the financial year in order to improve performance.
But Monitor stated that the deficit also indicated that the foundation trust had failed to display rigorous financial control during the assessed period.
Monitor sent improvement director Diane Whittingham to the trust in February to address Heart of England Foundation Trust’s failures against a range of performance targets.
Yet despite financial warnings from Monitor, the health regulator noted that the total medical expenditure of the foundation trust has risen by 10 per cent over the last 12 months.
Nursing spending had also shot up significantly, with Monitor assessing this as having increased by 11 per cent.
As a result of the deficit, cash reserves at the foundation trusts are significantly lower than anticipated.
The Heart of England Foundation Trust had a cash balance of just over £34 million in September. This was £37.5 million worse than expected.
With the foundation trust struggling with financial difficulties, the health regulator has put a financial recovery plan in place.
This initiative centres around measures to cut the volume and variations in price between locum doctors and temporary nursing staff.
As the NHS continues to face financial difficulties in a wide variety of different sectors, the regulator Monitor is continually assessing the validity of various organisations within the NHS.
In this context, that regulator has recently been forced to open an investigation into the rapidly deteriorating financial position at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.
This trust is one of the 152 foundation trusts currently located in Britain, with over 60 per cent of these organisations being based in England.
According to reports close to the body, the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust is currently expected to run a deficit in the fiscal year.
This has led the regulator to open an investigation which will be focused on the financial validity and credibility of the organisation.
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust is a large and very significant NHS foundation trust, currently providing services for in the region of 1.2 million people in the Midlands region.
Since it was established, the trust has served people in Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and South Staffordshire, and is considered vital to the local community in this region.
However, the £29.5 million deficit that has been reported in relation to this organisation has led to the financial regulator stepping in.
What makes the deficit figure even more serious is the fact that it has been accumulated in merely the first five months of the financial year.
Reports have suggested that the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust has been forced to utilise its cash reserves in order to ensure that the everyday running of the organisation can continue unabated.
Monitor is apparently concerned that the deterioration is gathering pace, and also that there is a lack of a robust plan to address the serious financial issues that the trust is facing.
The health regulator will be investigating to seek to understand the underlying financial risk that the Birmingham-based organisation faces, and what indeed can be done to remedy the situation.
Speaking about the decision related to the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Marianne Loynes, Regional Director at Monitor, emphasised that the investigation would seek possible solutions to the existing situation.
“This trust has slipped worryingly into the red, using its cash reserves to prop up the day-to-day running. A deficit of £29.5 million in 5 months is simply not acceptable and we want to establish what can be done to ensure the trust continues to provide the services local patients value,” Loyes commented.
An announcement about the outcome of the investigation will be made in the next few weeks.
The Monitor regulatory body has deferred the foundation trust application of an NHS trust based in Liverpool.
Monitor has delayed a decision on the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust’s application to become a foundation trust for 12 months.
This trust provides specialist and acute services to more than 465,000 people across Liverpool.
Monitor carried out a stringent assessment on the trust, and concluded that financial planning within the body needs further attention.
The regulatory agency therefore took the decision to delay the application of the Merseyside-based trust for another year.
The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust must now work on improving the deficiencies that Monitor established in its assessment of the organisation.
However, it wasn’t all bad news for the Liverpool trust. Monitor did conclude that the body had shown significant improvement with regard to the way that it manages the quality of care.
It seems that the concerns of Monitor were largely related to the fiscal situation of the health trust, and could have been exacerbated by the general state of the NHS.
Many trusts across the United Kingdom have experienced financial difficulties over the last few years, and indeed Monitor is currently assessing the efficacy of several such bodies and organisations.
Monitor also acknowledged that the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust had made significant progress with its attempts to strengthen its board, but that the organisation still had important steps to take in order to ensure that the trust was viable.
In particular, the regulatory body stressed the need for the Liverpool-based organisation to further develop robust plans in order to provide good value-for-money services for patients in the longer-term.
Commenting on the decision of the regulatory organisation, Miranda Carter, Executive Director of Provider Appraisal at Monitor, explained he context of deferring the decision on whether Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen should become a foundation trust for a year.
“In light of the new hospital it is building we want to give the trust more time to improve its financial plans. The next year will also give the trust time to induct new board members and to develop its plans to participate in Healthy Liverpool to improve care across Liverpool,” Carter explained.
The existing NHS structure encompasses 151 trusts spread across their entirety of England, which accounts for 60 per cent of all the trusts in the NHS as a whole.
Foundation trust status enables patients to have a greater and more direct to say in their specific healthcare.
Additionally, foundation trusts were conceived in order to enable these organisations to have greater freedom in crafting services to match the needs of individual regions.
NHS foundation trusts are effectively free from central government control, able to retain any surpluses for further investment, and intended to be directly accountable to local communities.
It is also notable that local people serve as members and governors in such bodies.
Although the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust has been denied this honour and responsibility for the time being, the verdict from Monitor suggests that there is light at the end of the tunnel for the NHS trust.