HSJ’s must read articles from Tuesday

When the going gets tough…

“2017-18 will be the toughest year yet for the NHS and NUH,” so says Nottingham University Hospitals Trust’s deputy finance director. And we’re only 11 days in to the new financial year.

In a message to staff, seen by HSJ, NUH chief executive Peter Homa had said the £930m-turnover trust was facing its “toughest financial challenge ever”.

Deterioration at the end of 2016-17 “has added to the gap between what we will earn (income) and what we will spend (including servicing our debt) in 2017-18”, Mr Homa added.”The NHS and our commissioners and regulators are clear there is no more money and we will not receive additional income to close the gap (as we have in previous years).” 

He said the trust had no option but to cut costs further, which would require an organisation-wide effort.

Another illustration of the challenge facing trusts comes from the South West: Plymouth Hospitals Trust plans to save £40m in 2017-18 – nearly 10 per cent of its income, and nearly three times the £14m the trust saved in 2016-17.

Lord Carter, who led a major review into NHS efficiency, and former Monitor chief executive David Bennett have previously said 2 per cent is an achievable efficiency target for providers.

HSJ’s finance expert says the trusts has “no chance” of achieving its savings plan.

Meanwhile, Burton Hospitals FT says it risks missing its 2016-17 control total because it’s been unable to sign a subcontract with Virgin Care. The deal has been held up until the private provider and East Staffordshire CCG resolve a contract dispute.

Backwards steps

A second trust in less than a week has slid back into special measures, having exited the regime a few years ago.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has been rated inadequate. The CQC raised significant concerns about the “safety of patient care, leadership and managerial oversight” across the trust.

The trust was one of 11 placed into special measures by Sir Bruce Keogh in July 2013 after his review of high mortality rates. It exited special measures in February 2015, but its performance has since “deteriorated across a number of services”, the CQC said.

Another the original 11, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals FT, was also put back in special measures last Thursday.

These backwards steps raise questions about whether the programme guarantees lasting improvement.