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Gloucestershire hospitals finance in good health, as trusts elsewhere braced for cuts

By The Citizen  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

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Hospitals in Gloucestershire are in the black after making £3.2 million of savings

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As many health trusts brace themselves for a 2015 financial crisis, the latest accounts for Gloucestershire Hospitals show it has saved more than £3million from the last financial year.

It is feared a budget freeze following next year’s General Election could leave many hospitals in the red.

Two-thirds of NHS finance directors in England and Wales claim their hospitals will go into deficit, putting patient safety at risk.

But bean counters within the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have bucked the trend, achieving a £3.2million surplus for 2013-14.

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A trust spokesman said: “The NHS is experiencing considerable financial pressures and it’s an absolute credit to our staff who have worked so tirelessly to ensure the trust has not only balanced its books in the last financial year, but has been able to achieve a £3.2million surplus.

“By carrying forward this surplus it ensures that we can continue to invest in our rolling capital programme which includes making further improvements to our estates which will greatly benefit patients.”

Vascular surgery has been centralised at Cheltenham General as part of the reconfiguration strategy that includes a £2.4million interventional Radiology theatre.

Nursing has also seen a £900,000 investment across both hospitals with 17 new nurses and 11 health care assistants caring for frail and elderly patients.

A survey of NHS trust finance directors said the NHS will struggle to meet its target of delivering £20bn in efficiency savings by 2015.

The latest quarterly monitoring report, conducted by the King’s Fund, a health think-tank, suggests more than one in five hospitals are set to be in deficit by the end of this financial year.

Britain’s ageing population, the need for new technology, and the rising cost of medicine has all contributed to rising running costs.

The NHS in England has in effect had no real rise in spending since 2010 and there are already 65 trusts in deficit. The Health Service’s budget will rise by only 0.1 per cent in 2014-15.

Richard Murray, the King’s Fund’s director of policy and former economic adviser at the Department of Health, said: “The Health Service now is a very large proportion of overall spending because it’s been protected while other areas of public spending have been cut back.”

Despite financial pressures, the fund’s analysis shows no immediate lapse in NHS performance.

Over the quarter ending in December 2013, the proportion of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E was within the government’s target range of five per cent.

Although one in four hospitals breached the target, the data suggest most hospitals have so far managed to cope with the difficult winter period.

On average, county hospitals hit the 95 per cent national standard between August and December 2013.

Cheltenham General Hospital exceeded all targets from August to the end of the year, hitting a 97.57 per cent target in December.

But Gloucestershire Royal Hospital slipped below with only 93.81 per cent of patients seen within four hours in December.

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