A SECOND major North-East hospital trust has issued a warning about its finances.

Within a week of the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announcing it has called in specialist consultants to help cut spending, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust warned staff that its investment plans could be derailed if productivity and efficiency is not improved.

In an internal bulletin County Durham and Darlington’s chief executive, Sue Jacques, tells staff: “Unless we focus on our quality, productivity and efficiency, our plans for major investments may need to be scaled back.”

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Ms Jacques says the financial difficulties facing the South Tees trust, which runs James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, “is an issue of concern to us as a trust as well as to us all individually as members of the community.”

South Tees issued a warning that it was “facing an extremely tough financial challenge” because of efficiency savings demanded by the Government, increasing pressure from emergency care and an increasingly elderly population.

The Middlesbrough-based trust has already reduced a forecast deficit from £49m to £29m but has called in consultants McKinsey to ensure the trust is not £50m in the red by the end of the following financial year.

Ms Jacques says her trust – which runs Darlington Memorial Hospital and the University Hospital of North Durham - was also under pressure despite ending 2013-14 with a surplus for investment of around £5m.

Over the next two years County Durham and Darlington plans to improve the quality of care it delivers and recruit more permanent clinical staff. In the longer term managers are looking at where they might need to make changes.

In an appeal to staff Ms Jacques says: “It is critical that we collectively focus to ensure that these plans are successfully implemented.”

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing’s Northern region said: “The serious funding challenges currently facing individual NHS trusts cannot be seen in isolation. Budgetary pressures at one hospital trust inevitably have a knock-on effect at neighbouring providers. The new way in which services are commissioned and resources are allocated, exacerbates this sort of problem.

“The reality is that, without significant additional investment in front-line care, the NHS is facing a completely unviable financial future. And yet, at the centre, there seems to be an almost wilful neglect of the financial crisis currently facing our trusts.”