Monitor has launched an investigation into the Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust after it became clear that its financial sustainability was dubious.
The investigation into the Black Country Partnership is just the latest in a long line of Monitor examinations, as it becomes increasingly clear that the NHS faces funding difficulties.
With Prime Minister David Cameron having recently suggested that the NHS should develop a radical seven-day culture, such issues as the Black Country Partnership investigation will only bring the logistics of these plans into sharper focus.
The health sector regulator was forced to engage in the action regarding the Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in order to investigate whether it was delivering services adequately to those that rely on them.
Based in the West Midlands, the trust covers Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton, and has reportedly recorded a deficit that was larger than anticipated.
Although it is unfortunately common for NHS trusts across the country to accumulate significant proportions of debt, it seems that the Black Country Partnership has indeed exceeded what would be considered acceptable levels.
According to early estimations on the subject, it is believed that the finances of the Black Country Partnership NHS Trust will continue to deteriorate in the coming months and years.
With Monitor having stepped in to investigate the situation further, the health sector regulator will be assessing the situation in the Black Country, and deciphering whether or not this NHS trust is delivering an acceptable level of service.
In particular, Monitor will be attempting to understand the underlying financial risk inherent in the organisation, the challenges that the trust faces in the future in order to become relatively solvent, and what needs to be done to improve the financial existing situation.
Speaking on behalf of Monitor, Marianne Loynes, the Regional Director of the organisation explained why the investigation has been initiated.
“We have launched this investigation to find out more about the financial situation at the trust and to establish what can be done to improve things for those who use its services,” Loynes stated.
The Regional Director also indicated that although reports on the Black Country Partnership are not exactly positive, that Monitor remains open-minded about the future of the trust.
“No decision has been taken about whether further regulatory action is required and an announcement about the outcome of the investigation will be made in due course,” Loynes asserted.
The Black Country Partnership in fact published an extensive financial plan to take the organisation to the end of the decade just last year.
In the document, the trust acknowledged that “the public sector environment is expected to remain challenging for the next five years. The Trust identified at an early stage the financial gap in a ‘do nothing’ scenario. This presented a financial shortfall of around £13m by 2019. As a result of this, the Trust developed a Sustainability Action Plan including a detailed review of Trust service lines, to identify the actions required to close the forecast financial gap. Much of this work has been used to inform this Strategy.”
But it seems, pending the results of the Monitor investigation, that despite the plans that the trust has not been successful in its fiscal aims.