‘We cannot rule anything out’

A protest urging 'fair pay' in the NHS took place outside Altnagelvin Hospital yesterday.
A protest urging 'fair pay' in the NHS took place outside Altnagelvin Hospital yesterday.

The chairman of the Western Trust has warned that nothing can be left off the table as pressure mounts on health budgets.

The Trust’s chairman Gerard Guckian told the board they will have to find new ways of saving money just days into the new financial year.

The warning came as it emerged the Trust was entering the new year with a £3.585 million hole in its finances carried over from the end of the 2013/14 year.

While the figures represent just 0.5% of the budget for the whole of last year, the Trust was told that belts would have to be tightened further.

At the April monthly meeting on the Trust Board, it emerged that levels of overtime had been cut by over 12% while the amount spent on agencies increased, with increasing new pressures include the cost of maintenance, and rising electricity and heating costs.

Chief Executive Elaine Way said she was not aware of any further funding pending to add to that already secured by the board to further cut the deficit for 2012/13.

She said: “The pot is getting significantly smaller.”

Speaking about the funding hole, Mr Guckian said: “It’s not where anybody wants to be but all we can do and all we have been doing is managing our costs, maximising our income as best we can.

“If we know the additional pressures then I think it is incumbent on us to consider more radically all options,” he said.

Non-executive board member Brendan McCarthy said that the different departments within the Trust had already been “squeezed and squeezed”.

“Surely there comes a point where that’s it, you wring it and nothing is coming out”, he said.

Mr Guckian said that after looking at “all possible efficiencies”, it became “a question of looking at services provided, which of those are essential and which of those aren’t essential”.

He said that at the moment this was a struggle because of the demand and demographics and aging population and the surge in childcare resources.

Mr McCarthy meanwhile said there was a false public perception that the Trust had full control over the services it delivers.