Health Trust Must Find £33 Million Savings

Health bosses in Gwent need to find up to £33 million in savings during the new financial year to avoid slipping further into the red.

Cost-cutting measures introduced halfway through last year to try to minimise a forecast overspend – including reorganisation and closure of wards at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall Hospitals, and a clampdown on use of agency nurses and overtime – saved £12 million to the end of last month, and are predicted to save £21 million during 2007/08.

But the trust’s estimate of the cost of bringing treatment and outpatient waiting times in Gwent down to the target maximum of five months each by the end of March 2008 is, at £24 million, £10.5 million more than the funding available from the Assembly.

And with other potential risks over issues like staff pay awards, £33 million is seen as a reasonable estimate of how much must be saved.

The trust, with a total budget of £450 million, saved almost £2.2 million from slashing the use of agency staff, mainly nurses, last year, and wants to increase the saving to £2.7 million this year. It has also estimated a year-round saving of £800,000 from ward reorganisation.

Savings of £1.1 million and £1.4 million respectively are earmarked for drugs, and a strategy known as ‘better buying’, which involves cheaper purchase of medical and surgical equipment.

A review of administrative and clerical staffing is continuing, with the trust and unions in negotiation about the number of medical secretaries and their roles. The trust wants to save £1.2 million from this review over the next 12 months.

Even if these savings are found this year, a minimum of £23.5 million must be saved next year, and the trust must also look at repaying the £12.6 million by which it has overspent in total during the last two financial years.

Last year’s overspend, at £6.5 million, was £2.5 million less than anticipated.

Trust bosses insist nothing will be done that might compromise patient care, and compulsory redundancies will be avoided if possible.