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£21m loan for hospital to pay bills is delayed
FRUSTRATED hospital bosses will have to wait until at least December to get their hands on a £21 million loan.
Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust need the extra cash from the Department of Health for their balance sheet because of historic debts of £18.3 million.
The trust was originally due to secure the working capital loan in July so the organisation could have more ‘liquidity’ and pay bills on time but the cash has not yet been paid because of concerns about the trust’s ability to pay it back.
The trust is in the middle of a joint services review in which hospital leaders are trying to claw back £50 million as demand for health services rises faster than the cash available to pay for it, plans which could lead to the closure of an A&E and maternity services at either Worcestershire Royal Hospital or the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.
Finance director Chris Tidman said the old debt was an impediment to the trust becoming a foundation trust – an NHS trust with greater freedom from central Government control.
He said the trust would now have to wait until December to see if they could secure the loan.
He said: “They just want more reassurance, linked to the joint services review, that we have the money to repay that loan over the next seven years. It’s really some extra time we have been given to make that case. Nobody has said ‘no’ but they want us to come back with a five-year financial plan. We do have contingency plans in place in terms of how we manage the cash problems. My concern going forward is we can’t pay about 40 per cent of our bills on time. Clearly that’s not sustainable. We can do it for this year but we need some resolution to that large debt.”
Mr Tidman said there was a chance the debt could be written off, converted into a non-repayable debt or ‘public dividend capital’ which is where the trust pays off the interest on the loan but not the loan itself. But Mr Tidman said that would have to be delayed until the trust was applying to become a foundation trust.
Chief operating of ficer Stewart Messer said the trust had experienced an ‘unprecedented’ emergency demand for services in the first five months of the 2012/13.