THE CASH-strapped local health authority could turn to the private sector to try to reduce a deficit projected to rise to more than £31 million for 2015/16.
Board members at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, meeting at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, heard that the shortfall was hitting both quality and financial and operational performance.
However, they were told that by turning to the private care, already done so by other trusts, could not only help cut the debt, but also free up hospital bed space, shorten waiting times for surgery and reduce time spent in A&E.
The trust has recently launched a three-year finance recovery plan and is currently awaiting the appointment of a turn around director to focus on the crisis.
Speaking after the meeting, deputy director of finance Haq Khan said: “We have this deficit and we need to tackle it – and find £15 million in annual savings as well.
“It’s not just about cost improvement but improving care as well.”
The trust is currently waiting for an external body to come in and look at its financial operations and see if it can deliver services another, more efficient way.
At the heart of the issue is the recognition that care in the community is currently falling behind the demand for places.
“For instance, emergency department pressures mean we do not have spare bed capacity, which means we cannot do planned surgery,” Mr Khan said.
The trust receives payment for every patient it treats in A&E and for every operation it carries out, however the longer a patient stays in hospital the less money it receives.
To free up bed space, trusts elsewhere have been putting together care packages for the private sector to look after those patients waiting to leave hospital but with nowhere to go.
By doing so they free up valuable hospital beds, thereby reducing the likelihood of operations being cancelled, and reducing pressures on accident and emergency.
“It’s a more cost effective way of doing things,” Mr Khan added.
“And if adopted should help us reduce the deficit.”