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NHS trust’s progress hampered by debts
6:00pm Monday 19th March 2012 in News
W O R C E S T E R S H I R E hospital bosses are still trying to wrestle historic debts of £18 million which could scupper their chances of winning greater control over NHS purse strings.
The debts were incurred when Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust was first formed in April 2000 from the merger of the three hospital trusts.
The debt continues to have an impact on the trust, including its ability to pay its bills and cashstrapped hospital bosses have had to take out a £15 million loan in 2012/13 to help them.
The trust is only just preparing to pay off its first £25 million loan this month after it was taken out in 2007/08.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of the trust at the Alexandra Hospital.
Chris Tidman, director of finance, said: “At the moment there is nobody coming over the hill on a white horse offering me £18 million.”
The loan is so the trust can carry on paying off its bills which it was struggling to do because of the old debt.
Mr Tidman said the cash position of the trust could also affect the trust’s mission to become a foundation trust, an NHS trust which has more freedom from central Government control, can set its own spending priorities and is supposed to be more accountable to patients and the public through an elected Council of Governors.
Mr Tidman wrote in his report: “Liquidity continues to be a major problem for the trust due to the £18 million legacy debt which has been raised with NHS Worcestershire and the Strategic Health Authority.”
The trust at the moment has a financial risk rating of one, the worst on a scale of one to five, according to Monitor, the foundation trust regulator.
The Government wants all NHS trusts to become foundation trusts by the end of 2014. Penny Venables, chief executive of the trust, said: “It’s crucial we define a timeline for when we believe we can get that status.
“We will be doing some concerted work over the next few weeks, making sure it’s a timeline we can adhere to. There’s pressure from the Strategic Health Authority and the Department of Health to get an agreed timeline because the national policy is that every trust needs to be a foundation trust in one shape or form.”