CASH-strapped South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which includes James Cook in Middlesbrough and The Friarage in Northallerton, has been found in breach of its licence to provide healthcare.

A report published this afternoon by NHS watchdog, Monitor, has revealed leadership, financial and infection control failings following a probe launched in October last year.

Waiting times for routine operations have improved and it now meets all national standards but it is still not hitting its Clostridium Difficile infection target, reporting an increase in the number of cases since 2012/2013. The trust has agreed to take legally binding steps to help it recover.

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Frances Shattock, Regional Director at Monitor, said: “This trust has financial and infection control failings that have to be fixed and quickly. We’ve taken action because the trust board has not addressed these risks fully.

“We need to secure quality patient services for the people of Middlesbrough and North Yorkshire for years to come.”

Monitor said initial figures suggested the trust will have a black hole of up to £34.9m in 2014/15 and £52.3m in 2015/16.

Professor Tricia Hart, Chief Executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, responded by saying: “The trust has always had a strong focus on providing high quality, safe services – something that has been recognised locally, regionally and nationally – and while we are facing some touch challenges, not least our financial position, our commitment to providing excellent services and care for our patients will not change.

“Our staff have proved time and time again that when things are tough they pull together and get the job done – and I am sure that over the coming months we will demonstrate that same spirit to address these latest challenges.”

Local Labour politicians reacted to the findings by criticising funding cuts made to the NHS.

Blenkinsop MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “This investigation by Monitor into serious failings at South Tees only serves to highlight the very real pressure and trouble our NHS faces from the Coalition cash axe.

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, said: “It is a crying shame that whilst billions of pounds were wasted on the Government’s structural reorganisation of the NHS, Trusts like South Tees were being ordered to make tens of millions in unsustainable savings at the same time as treating more patients.

There is, however, no getting away from the failures in leadership there and it is critical that the necessary changes are made quickly and the professional medical staff given the comprehensive support they need to let the infection control ratings sorted."

And James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, added: “After a thorough review we are already seeing improvement, especially with waiting time targets now being met, but there clearly needs to be a change of approach by management going forward.”