Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, the body responsible for Mayday and Purley Hospitals, has been taken out of financial special measures, it was announced yesterday.
According to the press release issued last night by the Croydon NHS Trust, it has been removed from the financial naughty step after “Savings schemes [have] been scrutinised by the Trust’s clinical cabinet to ensure there is no adverse effect to the quality, safety or performance of services”.
The local health service body, which has taken to calling itself Croydon Health Services (notice how they’re dropping reference to the NHS? Wonder why that might be?) was one of five trusts across the country to be placed in special measures last July.
“Intervention by NHS Improvement meant that each Trust was given intense scrutiny and tougher targets in order to turnaround rising financial deficits,” the Trust said in a statement that dripped with disingenuity.
“NHS Improvement challenged CHS to reduce its deficit by £7million more than planned in 2016-2017 whilst achieving over £14million of agreed efficiency savings throughout the year. At the same time, CHS was to maintain its quality of care and meet national standards for planned operations and cancer care, along with agreed trajectories for emergency care.
“Today’s announcement from NHS Improvement said the Trust had made ‘significant improvements in its financial position’ and was on course for achieving an agreed deficit control total of £32.8m (2016-2017).”
In the press release, there was this comment from John Goulston, the chief executive of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust: “To exit financial special measures in just seven months is to the credit of our staff who, along with the Trust Board, have worked tirelessly to find ways to increase efficiency and put forward ideas to cut costs without composing care.
“Our recovery plan was carefully developed, with all savings schemes checked by our senior clinicians to ensure that we do not compromise patient care or safety.
“We are on track to reduce the Trust’s long-standing deficit by almost a quarter this year – but we know we need to keep a tight grip on money if we are to continue to make improvements.”
Mike Bell, the chair of the Trust, expressed this view: “This is a turning point for the Trust, and we must continue to focus on our ongoing quality improvements whilst making every penny count.”
Those “ongoing improvements”? Another two years of more cuts in your local NHS hospitals and clinics. “This will not be easy,” Goulston said, making an early bid for this week’s No Shit Sherlock award.
The news release did offer some context for the particular problems faced by medical practitioners in Croydon, which has been under-funded for more than a decade. “Balancing the cost of treatment with rising demand from a growing and ageing population is a challenge across the NHS, but is particularly difficult in Croydon where funding for health and care services has historically been very tight. Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group also faces significant financial challenges, and was itself placed in financial special measures last year,” they NHS Trust said.
“Despite some success, the Trust has found it difficult to recruit where there is limited availability of trained clinicians and greater competition, especially in London. As a result, the Trust spent £24million on temporary staff in 2015-2016 in order to keep services running.”
And that’s a problem that’s not going to go away any time soon, especially while nurses and doctors working barely a mile away in inner London boroughs such as Lambeth, can earn more for doing the same job as is on offer in Croydon.
That Croydon’s hospitals remain under a constant financial threat was underlined by reports by the BBC today, based on research from the King’s Fund, which confirmed that under the current government’s plans the five NHS hospitals in south-west London could be reduced to just four – with St Helier Hospital believed to be most at risk of closure.
Meanwhile, the Croydon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, responsible for GPs and other services in the borough, remains under financial special measures. Given that body’s keenness to make cuts, through closing a women’s mental health centre, withdrawing IVF treatment and cutting the provision of babies’ milk for children with allergies, it cannot be long before the Conservative-run Department of Health under Jeremy Hunt pats them on the head and brings them back into the fold, too.
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