FINANCE: The foundation calculated that its decision to delay construction work on its new women and children’s unit would defer spending of £1.5m and help it avoid finishing 2010/11 in deficit, board documents show.

Robert Bell, the trust’s director of facilities, said in January: ““Due to the financial situation and the need for us to make significant savings we have taken the decision to defer the final phase of the scheme until at least 2012. This work was to relocate the children’s wards from the main hospital to the new women and children’s unit.”

Board documents released to HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act show that the trust estimates it can avoid spending £1.5m this year by delaying the start of the work until March. If it puts the project off for another year it will avoid spending a further £500,000 in 2011/12, but this would increase the final capital cost of the project by £240,000. It would also mean that the £300,000 per annum savings that the foundation anticipated it would make through the project would not be realised next year.

According to the board’s December finance report, the foundation was showing an overall deficit of £1.1m at the end of November. The trust’s financial risk rating was at 2, meaning that it had moved to reporting its financial performance to sector regulator Monitor on a monthly basis.

Mr Bell said around 80 per cent of the work on the new unit was complete and patients were “already benefiting from modern and more spacious state-of-the-art facilities”.