Weekly updates and essential insight into the NHS in the South West, by Will Hazell

Gloucestershire: The only health economy running a surplus

Last week my colleague Lawrence Dunhill published an excellent analysis looking at the financial position of the country’s 44 “sustainability and transformation” footprint areas. The analysis is not a definitive picture (primary care budgets are excluded, for example) but it serves as a temperature check for the financial health of the country.

The findings are salutary. Remarkably, Gloucestershire appears to be the only STP area where the local NHS organisations are reporting a combined surplus (of just 1 per cent of the area’s funding allocation). The decision by the comparatively “well-heeled” NHS bodies in Gloucestershire to come together on a county wide basis, rather than being tied to more straitened neighbours (Herefordshire and Worcestershire have a hefty 8 per cent deficit) looks pretty canny in this context.

Gloucestershire’s health leaders attribute their strong financial position to having a better starting point than most – the county does not have a recent history of deficits. They also, quite reasonably, feel they’ve demonstrated strict financial management.

Outside of Gloucestershire, things are leaner in the rest of the South West. The wave of pink across the map tells you that the region’s health economies are reporting deficits ranging from 2 per cent in Bath, Swindon and Wiltshire to 4 per cent in Devon (probably flattered by the fact that the massive “carry forward” deficit of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group is bracketed out from this analysis).

Things are not “easy” for health leaders in Gloucestershire at the moment – they are grappling with the same challenges which the rest of the country is dealing with. Unless health services are fundamentally transformed in the county, that reported surplus will be whittled down to nothing in very short order.

Still, there are probably leaders up and down the country looking on who would dearly wish to feel the weight of that modest surplus in their pockets.

A familiar face from the South West

Some senior management news – Paula Vasco-Knight, the former chief executive of South Devon Healthcare FT, has been appointed acting chief executive at St George’s University Hospitals FT, in south London.

She replaces Miles Scott, who is taking up a secondment at NHS Improvement.

The trust has been embroiled in controversy after a collapse in its finances a year ago. St George’s was made a foundation trust in February 2015 on the basis it would break even in 2014-15, only to declare a deficit of £16.8m by the end of March.

Ms Vasco-Knight, who had been working as interim chief operating officer at St George’s, resigned from her role at South Devon in 2014 after being accused of nepotism in the employment tribunal of two whistleblowers.

Deep South

Deep South is HSJ’s email briefing on the NHS in the South West of England.

It takes an in-depth weekly look at a region which is one of the NHS’s most innovative, but also one of its most turbulent. The patch includes the cities of Bristol and Bath, through Wessex and Dorset, and all the way down the peninsular to Lizard Point.

Please get in touch with any suggestions about what you’d like to see covered and any story tips: will.hazell@emap.com