Probe into Sunderland hospitals’ finances

Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.
Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.

AN investigation into the accounts of an NHS trust has been launched after bosses called for a review.

Monitor, which regulates the NHS in England, has opened an inquiry in the interests of patients in Sunderland.

It will find out if financial issues at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust indicate problems with how it is run.

Its investigation will seek to understand why the trust’s finances have deteriorated and what can be done to fix them.

It comes after the trust reported a larger deficit than planned and Monitor wants to understand if senior leaders could have done more to stop the problem happening, and what can be done now to improve the trust’s financial position.

The last figures issued, which have since been overtaken by new statistics not yet publicly published, stated the trust planned to have a £500,000 surplus in cash over coming financial years.

The Echo understands it now predicts it will have be left with a potential deficit.

Paul Chandler, regional director of Monitor, said: “Patients in Sunderland rely on their local hospitals and we want to make sure that City Hospitals can continue to provide high quality care while improving its finances.

“We have launched this investigation to understand the nature of the financial problems at the trust and what can be done to rectify these issues swiftly.”

Monitor will announce the outcome of its investigation, and whether any regulatory action is needed, in due course.

Ken Bremner, chief executive of the trust, said: “Our current financial position and the challenges facing us and others across the NHS are difficult but these are something that have been, and will continue to be, a major focus within the organisation.

“We will co-operate fully with the team from Monitor during their investigation. 
“After a recent positive Care Quality Commission inspection the trust’s priority continues to be the care of our patients and we will work towards improving our financial position without compromising quality and patient safety.”

The trust provides a wide range of hospital services to a community of around 350,000 residents, along with an increasing range of more specialised services provided to patients outside this area.

In some cases to a population as great as 860,000 and italso provides a range of community-based services.

The trust runs from Sunderland Royal Hospital, Sunderland Eye Infirmary; The Children’s Centre in Durham Road, Sunderland, on a limited basis from Monkwearmouth Hospital and Church View Medical Practice.

It also provides outreach services at Washington Galleries Health Centre; Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre; Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre; Washington Primary Care Centre; Hartlepool General Hospital; South Tyneside General Hospital; Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead; Bishop Auckland General Hospital; University Hospital of North Durham and Shotley Bridge Hospital.

It has annual income of around £306.02million and fixed assets of £205.37million and employs around 4,973 people.