BOSSES at one of the region’s biggest hospital trusts have revealed they hired external consultants to help tackle a predicted £29m deficit this year.

In a briefing sent out to nearly 9,000 staff at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, chief executive Professor Tricia Hart said: “We are facing an extremely tough financial challenge – and we we have enlisted external support to help us, not only harness the ideas and enthusiasm of our staff to meet this multi-million pound challenge, but also bring in new ways of working.”

Prof Hart said the financial problems were a combination of factors, from annual ‘efficiency savings’ demanded by the Government, inflation, higher prices, increasing pressure on emergency care, an increasingly elderly population with complex needs and high patient expectations.

Loading article content

The trust – which runs the 1,000 bed James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton – said it managed to head off a predicted deficit of £49.5m by the end of the current financial by introducing more rigorous cost improvement plans.

With fears that the debt could amount to £50m by the end of the following financial year, South Tees bosses said they had enlisted the support of external consultants, McKinsey, “to work with teams across the trust to identify further efficiencies and help them make rapid improvements.”

Asked about the implications for jobs Prof Hart added: “We are not currently predicting redundancies but as workforce is the NHS’ biggest cost then in trying to return the organisation to a stable financial position we do have to keep tight control on vacancies and recruitment.”

Estephanie Dunn, RCN operational manager in the North-East said: “McKinseys have a long and illustrious history of securing very lucrative deals with the NHS to provide advice on how to make cuts to the NHS.

“As McKinseys make more and more money out of a dwindling NHS budget, the budget for front line services gets less and less. This is, to say the least, highly questionable.

“The public needs to ask why central government has forced local NHS trusts into such financial dire straits in the first place, that they are resorting to make such desperate and frankly misguided decisions.”

Trevor Johnston, Unison’s lead officer for health in the North-East, said: “This is absolutely outrageous. What a waste of public money which should be spent on patient care.