Hospital trust in A&E top four despite £4.8m deficit

Marianne Griffiths (right), chief executive of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Mike Viggers, chairman
Marianne Griffiths (right), chief executive of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Mike Viggers, chairman
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Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust celebrated outstanding clinical results for the past financial year at its annual general meeting on Thursday, despite a £4.8 million deficit due to staff shortages.

The trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, Southlands Hospital in Shoreham and St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, was one of only four trusts in the country that met the national A&E target for 2015-16.

The trust achieved the NHS target for 95 per cent of patients to be seen, treated and either admitted or discharged in under four hours, ranking fourth best in the country.

However, the trust reported a deficit of £4.8 million for the first time after delivering years of surpluses since it was formed in 2009.

“It’s been a year like no other”, said Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of the trust. “The numbers of people coming through our doors are just growing year in and year out.”

Earlier this year the trust was rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the health watchdog’s highest rating.

Speaking at the Worthing Health Education Centre at Worthing Hospital on Thursday, Ms Griffiths praised her 6,700 staff and their efforts to reduce hospital-acquired infections and patient falls.

The trust reported zero cases of hospital-acquired MRSA in 2015-16 and an 11 per cent reduction in patient falls since 2014-15. However, despite making efficiency savings of £16.3 million, the trust reported an adjusted budget deficit of £4.8 million.

Mrs Griffiths spoke about the trust’s shortage of nurses and its efforts to hire more, many from the Phillipines and central Europe.

Staff shortages have been a problem for the trust this past year, with the hospitals having to buy in increasing amounts of more expensive temporary agency staff to keep up with demand.

The foundation trust spent more than £23 million on agency staff in 2015-16, a £7.9 million (51 per cent) increase on the previous year.

“This is not sustainable”, said Ms Griffiths, who pointed to the increased spend on agency staff as the reason for the deficit.

“We have got to reduce agency and get staff in so that is what we are really focussing on this year.”