CONTINUING high levels of emergency admissions are causing a “double whammy” of financial woe for hospitals.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is still seeing high numbers of emergency admissions despite commissioner-led efforts to cut demand.

Board members say they are losing money by having to treat more emergency cases than they are paid for, while emergency pressure is impacting the trust’s ability to perform enough elective operations – a valuable source of income.

There have been almost 700 fewer emergency admissions in Worcestershire in the first four months of 2013/14 compared to the same period the year before – a reduction of more than four per cent.

But last year saw exceptional demand and the number of emergency admissions continues to run considerably higher than the 2008/9 levels that this year’s targets have been based on.

Under the national ‘tariff’ system, hospitals are only paid the full price-per-patient up to a certain number of admissions. For any admissions above that baseline figure, the payment made is only 30 per cent. In Worcestershire, clinical commissioning groups have agreed to pay 65 per cent, more than twice the national rate.

But Andrew Sleigh, an acute trust director, said: “At the moment we are above (our commissioned levels) which means that we are only being paid at 65 per cent of tariff. So for every extra patient we get, we are actually losing money.”

Stewart Messer, chief operating officer at the acute trust, called the current situation a “double whammy” and said levels of emergency admissions were a key reason why contracts with commissioners still remain unsigned.

Board member Julian Bion called the system for calculating emergency payments “a disgrace”. “It is a shockingly bad system,” he said.

Carl Ellson, chief clinical officer at South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said huge efforts were being made to reduce emergency demand.

“We are working closely with all local NHS organisations, health and social care and voluntary sector leaders to reduce pressure on our emergency services,” he said.