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Norovirus adds to pressure on hospital finances
A BLACK hole in hospital finances continues to grow as NHS chiefs blame pressure caused by a winter diarrhoea and vomiting bug, but bosses say they can still balance the books.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust’s finance deficit is now £2.2 million, which is £400,000 worse than the previous month’s position. However, chiefs are still forecasting a break even position at the end of the financial year.
The trust was forced to close certain bays during recent outbreaks of norovirus, which lost the trust £500,000 in income. The trust also had to invest £300,000 in managing the control of the highly infectious bug.
The organisation, which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester, was forced to close seven wards and a number of bays on other wards were affected during the outbreak.
This resulted in the closure of 160 beds at the peak of the outbreak with 40 empty beds that were unable to be used because of patients with symptoms on the wards.
Meanwhile, the trust has negotiated a £12 million revenue support loan so it can pay its bills on time.
To break even the trust needs to deliver £12 million of efficiencies and savings by the end of the financial year.
Chris Tidman, the trust’s director of resources, has said the trust needs “a reasonable settlement” with commissioners (NHS Worcestershire, which holds the purse-strings) over emergency care.
As previously reported in your Worcester News the trust is in talks with NHS Worcestershire over the withholding of 70 per cent of the tariff for each emergency patient treated above an agreed threshold. The tariff refers to the cost of care for each patient treated in a hospital bed and the idea is to reinvest the money withheld from hospitals in community care and care closer to home, which will stop people being admitted to hospital in the first place.
These so-called admission avoidance schemes are expected to have an impact and reduce pressure on beds over the last few months of 2012/13.
Another factor which will help the trust get back on financial track is if it avoids contractual penalties from commissioners for not hitting the A&E target, stipulating that at least 95 per cent of patients who go through the doors of Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch should be seen, treated, admitted and discharged within four hours.
The trust risks fines of £22,000 a month if it fails this target. The trust also faces fines of up to £450,000 for every case of the bug clostridium difficile above the cap. It has already reported 60 cases, which is above the cap of 52.
The trust also failed the emergency waiting time target in November for the first time in five months.