‘We tried to make nurseries a success’

The nursery at the University Hospital of Hartlepool
The nursery at the University Hospital of Hartlepool

A HEALTH trust has defended its management of two children’s nurseries which are to close after they lost more than £500,000 in three years.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust says it needs to find £15m in savings from its budget this year and did everything it could to try to save the nurseries.

Over the last four years the two nurseries at Hartlepool and North Tees hospitals are predicted to have cost the trust a staggering £764,000.

In the three years between 2011 and 2013, the trust recorded a deficit of £538,000 in subsidising the two sites which were set up to provide childcare to hospital staff.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright says the figures raise “serious questions” about how the nurseries were allowed to continue making such big losses.

A trust spokesman said: “To say the situation was left for four years simply isn’t true.

“We have monitored the situation closely and we made numerous attempts to make the service viable.

“We have £15m efficiency savings to make this year and this is for the fourth year running.

“Every year we have met our financial efficiency targets, but the longer we are required to make these levels of savings the harder they become to achieve and we are faced with taking tough decisions.”

The trust says they increased fees in 2012 and they also talked to a number of other potential providers, but discussions proved unsuccessful.

The nurseries were also opened to non-staff parents when numbers started falling.

Trust leaders told members of the board they could no longer prop up the service and the money should instead go to health services.

The Mail reported yesterday how Mr Wright has asked questions in Parliament of the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about the whole issue of hospital nurseries and what they are costing the NHS.

He has also written to trust chief executive Alan Foster to ask what options, other than closure, were considered, and if they could have been expanded to take in more children.