FINANCE: A trust which is being investigated by NHS Improvement after its deficit soared says part of it was due to an extra payment to the NHS Litigation Authority.

The Royal Surrey County Hospital Foundation Trust saw its financial position rapidly deteriorate in 2015-16. The last board papers showed a deficit of £11.4m after 11 months but the trust says £3.5m of the final deficit was due to an increase in premiums paid to the NHS Litigation Authority.

Claudia Griffith, regional director at NHS Improvement, said: “We know Royal Surrey County Hospital is taking steps to get its finances back on track, but we want to find out more about why it is losing money and how we can help fix it. We will be looking into what support it might need to reduce how long patients are waiting for some treatments and improve its short and long term financial planning and management.”

NHSI said it also wants to help the trust find a permanent chief executive to stabilise its leadership. Interim chief executive, former chair Peter Dunt, has been in position since October. Since then the trust has paused plans to merge with nearby Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Mr Dunt said: “We knew that the fiscal year ending March 2016 was going to be a particularly difficult one forecasting, for the first time, a deficit position for the year end.

“Nationally, trusts are facing exceptional demand and pressure on their capacity. At the same time, the shortage of qualified nurses and doctors has led to an increased reliance on expensive agency workers to ensure safe staffing levels across our wards.

“The trust has also incurred some one-off costs this year, including a substantial increase of £3.5m to its NHS Litigation Authority insurance premium following a change to the way this is calculated.”

He added that trust welcomed the support of NHSI. The trust has already appointed a turnaround director, Steve Leivers.