The Whittington Hospital has a £5.3 million deficit
Published: 26 November, 2014
By TOM FOOT
THE top boss of the Whittington has warned that its finances are “of major concern” as board chiefs weigh up the closure of a central plank of the Highgate hospital’s accident and emergency department.
Chief executive Simon Pleydell, in his monthly report to staff, blamed a deficit of £5.3million on “lower than expected income” from its commissioners NHS England, particularly for funding for “critical care” patients in A&E.
Included in a further financial report is the brief mention of the “closure” of the ISIS ward, which is a central component of the accident and emergency department.
The papers also reveal that the hospital’s financial ratings have been raised to “high risk” for liquidity and “continuity of services”.
Mr Pleydell’s report said: “Our financial position remains an area for major concern. Meetings have been held with our commissioners following lower than expected income on a ‘block’ contract. The Trust is continuing to tighten its grip on spending, looking at a range of initiatives.”
His report added that £1m of the overall £5.3m was “due to high agency spend” in the emergency department, district nursing and acute wards. The board papers say that the NHS Trust is considering “recovery plans to bridge the gap” and reveal that “the closure of ISIS is still being discussed”. The ISIS ward – an overflow area for the stretched A&E – has eight beds and armchairs for patients. It bears the same name as the terrorist group aiming to create a new “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq. But a hospital spokeswoman said the closure talks were “definitely” not to do with that, adding: “It is not like the Downton Abbey dog – if that was the case we would simply rename it”. Downton producers came under fire for killing off Isis, the dog owned by the fictional aristocrat family, because it had the same name as the jihadist group.
NHS England has decided to move away from “block contract” funding. Instead, a competitive market-style system of “payment by results” has been introduced.
Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition chairwoman Shirley Franklin said: “The hospital staff have been saying that the A&E was at risk for some time now. If there are any cutbacks, especially around A&E, we will be right there after them. The fault is with the government and the issue is the Health and Social Care Act.”
The papers reveal that “a revaluation of land and buildings took place earlier in the year” and has increased by £5.3m. Last year, the New Journal led a campaign after a board report proposed selling off a third of the site and several major buildings.
Ten members of the board, which changed its mind six months after unveiling the proposals, have since quit and been replaced.
A Whittington Health spokeswoman said: “We are currently reviewing how we can most effectively work to ensure our patients are treated in a timely way and our short stay ward, ISIS, is one area that will be reviewed. No decision has been reached on this. In common with many other NHS trusts across England, balancing our finances is challenging.”