If trusts are to meet their cost improvement plan targets for 2011-12, they have to make significant savings through cutting the paybill.

Interesting, then, that two new community providers in the South Central region finished 2010-11 struggling to keep temporary staff costs under control.

Oxford Health Foundation Trust reported rises in the use of bank and agency staff and in “sessional contracts”. The 7.7 per cent spend in March on non-permanent staff contrasted with a sickness and vacancy rate of 4 per cent – a finding that prompted further investigation by the FT.

At Solent Trust, agency use hit 96 whole time equivalents in March – well above the monthly target of 59.5 WTE. The sickness goal of 3 per cent for the year was also exceeded, at 4.41 by 31 March.

Solent reached its efficiency goal for 2010-11 of £7.1m, or 4 per cent of its income. But that was only possible through £557,000 in non-recurrent savings, which have been added to the 2011-12 target. The trust was able to report a smooth transition to independence from NHS Southampton, under the Transforming Community Services programme. The same could not be said for community provider Berkshire Healthcare, which missed the 1 April transfer deadline by a week and faces further delays.

Monitor expressed concern that the trust’s permanent board would not be in place for the first four weeks after taking on community services in Berkshire, and that the team below them would not be in place until the autumn.

The regulator eventually awarded the organisation an “advisory” governance risk rating of amber/red, and a financial risk rating of level two, allowing the transfer to go ahead.