£40m health cuts challenge

HEALTH bosses have outlined the “significant challenge” facing them as they look to make £40m of savings.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust needs to save £40m over the next three years from its £260m budget.

As part of the “£40m Challenge” every money-saving possibility will be explored but the Trust admits that more than 70 per cent of its budget goes on staff wages.

It hopes to make the savings by transforming services, reducing beds, reducing energy bills, building the new hospital and bringing in more income.

Savings worth £16.5m will be made this year by changing the procurement process and making management staff cuts, as previously reported.

Paul Garvin, chairman of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and Carole Langrick, deputy chief executive of the trust, spoke at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum.

Mrs Langrick said that while the government had protected NHS funding from cuts, it has imposed a cap on spending despite the service facing year on year increases in costs.

She added: “The cost of health care goes up year on year because of new technology and treatments, the pay bill and the demand on the service from an ageing population.

“By putting a cap on the money put in means that the NHS has to save the amount of money required to meet all of these pressures.”

Government policy is now to invest in preventative care and early intervention rather than hospitals.

Alan Foster, trust chief executive, has previously said that it was impossible to give exact figures on job losses but that it would be in the hundreds.

Mrs Langrick said the Trust had been making savings for several years and that any “waste” had already been removed.

She added: “We are in a period of significant change and significant challenge.”

Trust bosses admitted that private providers were a real threat to the NHS as every service lost threatens their “viability”.

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, chair of the scrutiny forum, said Hartlepool and Durham County Council’s scrutiny committees would be working more closely together in future and holding joint meetings.

He called for full consultation on any changes, which Mr Garvin said the trust wanted to do.

Mr Garvin said: “I would ask that members take on board the difficult choices that we all have to make and be realistic.

“We all like to have everything on our own locality but we have to work in the real world with the financial pressures.”

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “Let’s hope it is not all cuts in Hartlepool and east Durham.”

It was the first time Mr Garvin had been to a health scrutiny forum since the vote of no confidence in the trust’s board, which was passed at the extraordinary council meeting in September.

Speaking after the health forum meeting, Keith Fisher, chair of the Save Our Hospital group, said: “If they have no confidence in them, then why are we still listening to them?”