Regulator orders NHS bosses to act over debt crisis

Barnsley Hospital
Barnsley Hospital
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ACTION is needed to improve the leadership of a NHS trust which has plunged into financial crisis, a regulator has warned.

Monitor said an investigation had revealed “wider problems” in the way Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was being run.

Managers have blamed unspecified “financial irregularities” for debts, now put at £7.55 million in 2013-14, which emerged in April despite claims only weeks before the trust was on course to make a surplus.

The trust is also expected to run up major losses in 2014-15, which it had been estimated could hit £13.5m, although latest indications suggest the deficit could be lower.

The Yorkshire Post can reveal the crisis has been so serious the trust received an emergency injection of £3.26m from the Department of Health to help with its critical short-term cashflow.

Yesterday, Monitor said there was a “wider issue with how the trust is being run”. It has ordered managers to draw up a two-year turnaround plan to improve financial and operational performance and review how it operates.

Expert help is being drafted in to help cut waits for A&E treatment after the trust breached the national target to ensure 95 per cent of patients are seen within four hours over five successive quarters.

Monitor regional director Frances Shattock said: “It is worrying that Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s finances have worsened so suddenly and that the problem was not nipped in the bud. The trust is now taking action to make sure that it recovers its finances and that it has strong leadership in place to make the improvements needed.

“It is also unacceptable that patients in Barnsley have been waiting too long to be seen in A&E. Although the trust has taken action to cut waiting times we want to make sure this improvement is maintained.”

Chief executive Diane Wake, who took over in the autumn, said: “We take Monitor’s findings extremely seriously and will be working closely with them to ensure that we carry out all of the actions they require.”

She had ordered an external review of the way it was run in January and an internal review of operational structures was underway, while the A&E target had been met since March,

“I want to reassure people that quality patient care remains absolutely paramount and our services are not affected by our financial position,” she said.