Hartlepool health services facing tough winter amid funding cuts and rising demands

North Tees Hospital.
North Tees Hospital.

Hospital chiefs have warned they are expecting another difficult winter due to a cut in funding to cope with increased demand.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has received £1.46million of central funding to help deal with surges in demand for the whole year and is planning to provide an extra 34 hospital beds between December and March.

But the trust says that is just under £350,000 less than it received last year, when it experienced unprecedented winter demand, and around £1.2million less than in 2013-14.

And it fears resources in the primary and social care system will not be enough to meet the demands placed on them with the trust expecting higher hospital admissions and delays in discharging patients.

Julie Gillon, trust chief operating officer, said in a report discussed by the trust’s board: “Resilience funding has also been allocated to other organisations within the system to address all areas of health, social and primary care; however it is not anticipated that the system response will be sufficient to support resilience with the likely impact to be felt in the trust.”

The hospital trust is part of a local System Resilience Group which plan for how to deal with spikes in demand across the whole healthcare system.

The shortfall we are likely to see could challenge us even further

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

It is also involved in the Government’s Better Care Fund which provides money for more integrated care, but says planned schemes have not had time to get up and running.

A trust spokesman said: “While we know the whole health and social care system has to work together for it to be effective, some of the initiatives outside hospital are still being developed so we can expect them to take some time to become established before they begin to make a difference to the demands placed on our services.

“We are already in a challenging financial position as a trust and the shortfall we are likely to see could challenge us even further.”

Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says this year the System Resilience Group allocated £1.994,000 of resilience cash with the lion’s share, 66%, going to the hospital trust.

A spokesman said: “To further support operational resilience and capacity planning across partners, it has been agreed to instigate a localised mutual aid framework which defines situations where support across health and social care may be required at times of unprecedented pressure, over and above general demand management and Business Continuity Planning arrangements.

“This support is not mandated from partners and would only be provided in circumstances where the identified provider has the appropriate capacity to do so. However, agreement of the plans demonstrates a willingness of partners to support each other at times of such pressure, improve general communication, decrease silo (solo) working and assess the impact of actions on other partners at such difficult times.”