FINANCE: East Cheshire Trust’s bottom line was still hovering just above breakeven at the end of December, against plans to have delivered a surplus of £658,000 by that point.

The trust’s actual surplus was just £6,000 for the first nine months of 2011-12, despite its income to that point being around £3m higher than planned.

The trust’s latest performance report stated that its failure to meet the target was due to “slippage” on its savings plan.

It added: “The trust has planned to increase activity to meet [the] 18 weeks [waiting times] target.”

Although the trust’s overall spending was around £3m above plan, its spending on staff was below plan, at £92m against a plan of £94m.

The report noted: “The numbers of the workforce have fallen during the month which would be expected as reductions in expenditure are delivered. It is of some concern that the Trust is experiencing an increase in sickness absence rates and the attention of managers is crucial to ensure that this will not affect patient safety.”