Plymouth Hospitals Trust staff have been warned they face disciplinary action if they deviate from rules restricting all non-essential spending.

The trust is currently forecasting a £13m deficit and has overspent by £40,000 a day up to August.

Trust guidance to staff says: “There must be absolutely no exceptions to these controls and staff should be aware that disciplinary measures will be taken if they circumvent trust controls.”

Earlier this month the trust chief executive emailed staff with a string of restrictions on non-essential spending.

Joe Teape, trust finance director and deputy chief executive, said: “We remain very determined as a trust to achieve our £13m deficit plan this year, which partly arose due to a number of quality related investments we had to make.

“We want to deliver what we said, that means being absolutely rigorous with every pound of public money we spend - we are very committed to a new clinical leadership model we are implementing and we have a huge challenge over the next few years.

“We remain committed and determined to work within our wider health system to very much stay in control of our own destiny – it’s a great hospital with great people and patient safety and quality is our absolute priority, delivered within the funds available.”

A senior member of staff said: “We have had financial problems for a long time, but this looks as though we are making money the main (or the sole) priority. I’m worried about the impact that will have on the safety of patients and staff, since we have already been criticised by the CQC for the number of surgical never events over the last couple of years. I fear these constraints will make things worse.”