Western Trust is facing £8m deficit, with worse yet to come

Elaine Way, chief executive, Western Health and Social Care Trust.
Elaine Way, chief executive, Western Health and Social Care Trust.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust have predicted they are facing an £8 million deficit for the last financial year - and have warned that next year could be the worst.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Trust’s Board yesterday, Chief Executive Elaine Way said it had “not been in a very easy position this year” and were looking at “all avenues” in terms of reducing their deficit in what was an “extremely challenging financial climate”.

The Board heard a report from Lesley Mitchell, the Trust’s Director of Finance and Contracting who said a number of factors had forced her to review the projected overspend for the current financial year.

Chief among these factors was an increase in staffing costs in the form of an increased reliance on agency, locum and bank staff, she told the meeting.

The report pointed to both difficulties in the recruitment and retention of medical staff, at junior and senior level and high levels of maternity and/ or sick leave in some departments, including A&E.

It also highlighted the pressures of demands on the domiciliary care sector where spending is currently running 8.8% over budget - and in Women and Children’s Services at almost 60% above budget alone.

The figures come against a backdrop of public sector cuts and the Transforming Your Care initiative, which requires the Western Trust to cut their spending by a total of £42.7m over a three year period.

The deficit has forced the Trust to consider a number of contingency and cost saving measures - which Board members said could have an impact on the Trust’s ability to meet waiting list targets in the coming months and years.

The Trust has also established a new Finance and Performance Committee to look specifically at the difficulties which come with increasing demand matched with budget cuts - and no stone would be left unturned.

Mrs Way told the Board that she was now faced with “difficult decisions” which involved “balancing risk with cost implications”.

“We hope that the Minister will be able to secure additional funding but we do not expect him to be able to meet the deficit.

“Each and every director in the Trust is wholly committed to reducing the deficit we are facing. But we want to ensure that a quality of care continues to be delivered.

“This has been an extremely challenging year and we fully expect that 14/15 will be the worst year we have ever faced in terms of financial challenges,” Mrs Way added, blaming public sector cuts.