McGrath Concerned at South East Trust £7.1m Variance From Budget

DOWNAPTRICK Councillor Colin McGrath (SDLP) has said he is concerned at the South East Area Health and Social Trust’s variance from its budget by over £7 million pounds.

Following a number of cut backs by the South Eastern HSC Trust, Councillor McGrath said:  “I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Trust and asked what state the budget for the Trust was presently in,  and he has informed me it is overspent by £7m.

“This is a significant amount and I am concerned that efforts that will have to be made to manage this scenario will undoubtedly impact upon patient’s services.

[caption id="attachment_43780" align="alignleft" width="390"]Councillor Colin McGrath concerned at budget issues in local health care. Councillor Colin McGrath concerned at budget issues in local health care.[/caption]

“I have written to the Chief Executive of the Trust and to the Health Minister to seek assurances that patient care, services and experience will not be impacted as a result of this shortfall.

“I have also written to the  Council Chief Executive and asked in what ways Council can monitor this financial situation to ensure early notification to the Department of Health should any concerns be raised.

“I want to see a high class health service delivered to the people of the Down area and hope the Trust, Department and Minister can provide the necessary assurances that this present in-year overspend will not impact negatively upon patients,” added Councillor McGrath.

In a response to a letter sent to the Health Minister Edwin Poots, South Eastern HSC Trust Chief Executive Hugh McCaughey  repled by saying that “the Trust has been experiencing unprecedented levels of demand on its services over  the last number of years which by their nature have necessitated a fundamental examination of all our spend.

“As a consequence we have had to prioritise our salaries and wages and goods expenditure to protect all direct patient/client services.

“Within Patient Services, this has meant a reduction in non-core spend, namely, overtime, like for like cover, bank and agency staffing, as well as a number of other reductions in goods and services. My senior staff will attempt to minimise the impact of these measures on patient client care and permanent staff but it will not be possible to deliver the level of cost reduction without some impact on the later.”

Mr McCaughey also explained that the Trust is running on a £7.1 million deficit in month 5 on this financial year which he said was the broad experience of other Trusts. But he assured that capable management of the budget will ensure that the Trust meets its statutory responsibilities.  The changes to the current position within the Trust may be delivered at short notice and will not be specific to any one geographic location within the Trust area.

The cleaning regime in Trust hospitals and properties will also be properly re-examined, and all changes will be subject to periodic review.

It is understood also that he Trust is looking closely at issues of long-term absenteeism. The Trust confirmed that it did not have any staff on ‘zero hour contracts’.”