Trust Forced To Make Major Health Cuts As Stormont Pulls Purse Strings

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust is under considerable pressure to deliver £5 from an overspend in its health budget.

[caption id="attachment_43269" align="alignleft" width="390"]Local health care across the Siuth eastern HSC Trust area is to be cut to claw back £5 million to the Stormont purse. Local health care across the South Eastern HSC Trust area is to be cut to claw back £5 million to the Stormont purse.[/caption]

In a statement today (30 October), a Trust spokesperson said there were considerable financial challenges and also opportunities for reform.

At the Downe Hospital, nine beds are to be taken out, but the impact of the savings cuts will be felt all around the Trust area.

Context and Overview

A Trust spokesperson said: “The Health Minister has asked all Trusts to implement a series of contingency measures to prevent an overspend in the health budget. In the South Eastern Trust this will mean £5m of savings to be delivered by March 2015.

“The entire public sector, including health and social care, is facing unprecedented financial challenges. The DHSSPSNI requires that each Trust achieves a break even financial position. Therefore, it will simply not be possible to maintain current levels of service provision in the absence of all the required funding.

“The Trust has been in a series of discussions with the Department and Health and Social Care Board and the Trust now has an agreed financial position. In developing contingency plans, patient and client safety was paramount. The Trust focused on areas that could result in reductions in expenditure quickly and where possible, on areas which align to the strategic direction of travel. Further to the Minister’s statement today the Trust will implement these plans as soon as possible and by 1st December 2014 at the latest.”

What areas will be affected?

There are a series of measures to reduce spend in year which will be kept under close review and scrutiny. Should there be proposals for any of these service changes to become permanent, they will be subject to consultation as appropriate. These measures include: * The temporary closure of 6 beds at Lagan Valley Hospital. This will be in Ward 14. * The temporary closure of 9 beds in Downe Hospital, and the consolidation of medical and cardiology beds within the two remaining twenty bed wards. * The temporary closure of 20 beds in Bangor Community Hospital. * The temporary closure of Bangor Minor Injuries Unit, and the consolidation of the minor injuries service at Ards Community Hospital. * A new nurse led weekend Minor Injuries service scheduled to commence autumn 2014 at Lagan Valley Hospital has been postponed. * Elective care treatments will be focused on urgent procedures. * Reduction in domiciliary care places. The Trust will now replace only 2 out of every 3 domiciliary care packages. This change has been risk assessed and patients with the highest needs will be prioritised. * Reduction in workforce expenditure through a mix of non-permanent staff reductions, overtime and vacancy control. This is not a reduction in core permanent staff but a reduction in the use of agency staff, overtime and rigorous management of vacancies. * Minimising the amount of non-operational travel. All staff are currently working to this policy where travel is restricted unless absolutely necessary. * Reduction in use of miscellaneous expenditure.

What will be the impact of these plans on services?

The spokesperson continued: “Of paramount importance is the impact of these measures on patients, clients and users of our services. It is clear that such plans will affect both the quality and access to some of the services provided both in the hospital environment and within community settings.

“The Trust will endeavour to mitigate the impact of these changes however we cannot prevent impact on certain aspects of service quality. We do not believe that the measures agreed will leave services unsafe however, it must be highlighted that there is an increased risk which has to be managed.

Our Future

“The longer term outcomes for the Health and Social Care network must be at the forefront of decision making. It is hoped that the next 4-5 months will bring focus to key areas of reform and that a constructive debate on major reform will emerge. For now, the Trust must continue to focus on its vision for the future and retain control over the elements that are within its remit.

“It is critical that staff keep focused on the work we do well and maintain efforts to sustain quality and improvement for the patients/clients we provide services to on a daily basis. Strong leadership and commitment to the change will be required to help support staff through this challenging time.”