Hope for U-turn on massive Sheffield hospital cuts

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
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Hospital bosses in Sheffield are facing a potential £30million black hole in their budget – with just weeks to find the savings.

But uncertainty remains over precisely how much needs to be saved following a national revolt by NHS trusts against Government proposals to change how services are funded.

Health chiefs revealed back in January they were facing the prospect of finding more than £40m in savings from April.

But the Government proposals are now having to be reconsidered after 75 per cent of health trusts opposed the plans.

Health watchdog Monitor is now reviewing what had been proposed ahead of the new financial year – but has told trusts to continue planning on the basis of the original figures. The government says its planned changes are designed to make the healthcare system more efficient by adjusting the levels of funding given to different NHS organisations.

It means finance bosses at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – which runs the Royal Hallamshire, Northern General, Weston Park and Charles Clifford Dental Hospital – are still preparing for large cuts and need to find millions of pounds of savings.

If the original cuts go ahead, at least £47.6m of savings are required – with just £22.7m identified so far.

The perilous state of the trust’s finances was discussed in detail at the trust’s monthly board meeting yesterday. A report to the board said the current savings plans are ‘still some way short of what is required’.

Neil Priestley, director of finance for the trust, said although negotiations were still going on, between £25m to £30m of extra savings may need to be identified in the next few weeks.

“We will be seriously challenged to make much of a dent into that,” he said.

He said the trust is on course to break even this year but said next year will be more challenging.

Chief executive Sir Andrew Cash said the trust has always hit its financial targets in the past.

Tony Pedder, chairman of the trust, said: “It is unfair for a trust that has performed as well as we have to be hit by something out of the blue. We shouldn’t compromise on quality or performance. We must do the right thing for patients.”

A report to next month’s board meeting will lay out details of the trust’s plans to make the savings required.

David Bennett, chief executive of Monitor, said: “The NHS is facing unprecedented operational and financial pressures and our proposals for the payment system in 2015/16 will provide incentives for NHS organisations to manage their resources better while meeting increasing demand for services.”