FINANCE: East Sussex Healthcare Trust has increased its predicted deficit by a third after losses soared in the first nine months of the financial year.

The trust is now expecting to finish 2015-16 with a £48.7m deficit – £13.5m worse than previously expected. The deficit by the end of December was £36.5m, which is more than 10 per cent of the trust’s projected annual income of £356m.

A report to go before the trust’s board meeting tomorrow highlights the poor performance in December, when the trust overspent by nearly £5m. The trust has spent £26m on agency staff so far this year compared with £5m for the whole of last year.

The trust said in a statement: “A big part of our overspending this year has been on agency staff. That is exactly why we have been actively recruiting more nursing staff and healthcare assistants. We expect over 150 new permanent registered nurses to be joining us in 2016 with more to come.

“We have been successful in recruiting healthcare assistants, virtually filling every vacancy, and no longer require the use of agency healthcare assistants.

“We continue to work with our partners to find a longer term solution that ensures that we can continue to provide high quality, safe and sustainable services to patients in East Sussex within affordable resources.”

Overseas recruitment is planned to cover some of the nursing vacancies but the trust has had limited success with overseas recruitment of medical staff. Nurses from Spain and the Philippines will start work shortly and trips to Romania and the Philippines are planned.