FINANCE: A foundation trust that received an £18m loan from the Department of Health is now embroiled in a dispute over the “failure” of commissioners to manage demand.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital Foundation Trust also said payment delays from NHS Berkshire East were putting its financial position at risk.

Last September the trust received a loan from the DH to help it turn around its financial position.

In its most recent board papers, it said over performance of 20 per cent on inpatient and outpatient activity was “largely due to the failure of the PCT [Berkshire East’s]demand management initiatives.”

January’s board minutes quoted chief financial officer Paul Robinson as saying most of the PCT’s correspondence on the matter had related to “process” rather than “a commitment to recognise the overperformance”.

He said if payment for overactivity was not received the trust’s cash position would be “critical” by the end of the year.

NHS Berkshire East deputy chief executive David Williams said the PCT had reduced GP referrals by 15 per cent in the last year and was discussing “data quality issues” with the trust.

He said: “Patient activity at the hospitals is not just generated by GPs but also through internal referrals between teams and admissions through accident and emergency.”

At the end of January, the trust had liabilities from NHS debtors worth £15.5m - £3.6m above plan.