Published: 27/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5848 Page 5 6

Bromley Hospitals trust is moving its hospitals to a new site this week - in the midst of the national audit on accident and emergency access times.

The performance of A&E departments across the country is being measured for the seven-day period which started on Monday.

Desperation to meet the key target - for 90 per cent of patients to be dealt with within four hours of arrival - has meant trusts are taking on extra staff and even cancelling operations.

But Bromley Hospitals trust is in the midst of a five-day move from three sites to its new£155m Princess Royal University Hospital, with the A&E services moving from tomorrow.

Chief executive Mark Rees said the trust had received no special dispensation from the Department of Health and would be expected to meet all the end of year targets, even while up to 500 patients were being transferred.

For the 27 hours when A&E services are shut - from tomorrow - other local hospitals will pick up Bromley's blue-light calls.

Mr Rees said: 'It would have been a huge logistical challenge anyway, even without the A&E targets.'

But he said that on Monday, the trust achieved 100 per cent success on the A&E target for that day, and was optimistic it would achieve the end-of-year goal.

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for St Mary's trust in West London, which admits it has 'struggled' to cope with A&E targets in the past, said it has cancelled 10 elective operations in a 'big push' to meet the target. She said the trust carries out an average of 480 operations a week and usually cancels 20 for a range of reasons, but this week 10 more 'non-urgent' patients were given new appointments in April.

'We are doing well on all other targets and we have managed to bring forward some elective procedures this week, but we thought this was an opportunity to go for the emergency target in a big way.'

Democrat claims, published in Sunday's Observer, suggesting the NHS would have a deficit of£405m at the end of the financial year. But the figures were based on forecasts made by SHAs six months ago.

The Department of Health is still sticking by the figure given to HSJ by NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp, that the deficit the end of the financial year will be between£100m and£150m - although a DoH spokesperson stressed the difficulties in making accurate predictions.

Describing the Liberal Democrat figures as 'misleading', the spokesperson added: 'NHS accounts for the last financial year show that the health service was actually in credit by£71m. In an organisation with a budget as large as the NHS -£55bn - It is almost impossible to finish with neither an overspend nor an underspend.'

Cumbria and Lancashire SHA is facing a£40m deficit at the end of the month.

Though initial interest was expressed in making an application to the NHS Bank, the authority decided against.

Finance director Geoff Minns said: 'The bank is seen as a last resort. I do not think we are in that position yet.'

This year, his authority is looking for funding through brokerage from the Workforce Development Confederation and its under-spending primary care trusts. But within three years, he said, the authority's borrowing w i l l be cut to zero.

lThe National Audit Office revealed last week that 46 trusts had experienced 'significant financial difficulties' during 2001 and 2002.

The worst performer was West Hertfordshire Hospitals trust - it ran up an£11.5m deficit over the year or 6.6 per cent of income. East Berkshire Community Health trust's deficit was 4.7 per cent of income, Somerset Partnership NHS and Social Care trust's was 4.3 per cent and the deficit at Sussex Weald and Downs trust was 4.3 per cent of income.

But with a£71m revenue underspend across the NHS, no trust failed in its statutory duty to break even.