‘We’re doing things differently to benefit patients’

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TOUGH times are ahead for the hospital trust as it seeks to turn a £14m deficit into a surplus but the director of finance still thinks the turnaround is possible.

Kevin Turner, who only started work at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust earlier this year, has implemented a transformation programme, which he hopes will lead to massive efficiency savings.

He said: “We are starting to do things differently for the benefit of the patient. This is the first of a three year plan and we are looking at everything we can look at. It will take time.”

The trust have set the target of getting into a surplus position by 2013/2014.

Mr Turner said: “Having a starting position of a deficit of £14m is difficult. In the first half of the year we were on track but I’m anticipating that the second half of the year will be more challeging.

“If we achieve our target it will be a significant improvement on other years. It’s a challenge still, I’ve only been here nine months, it’s still early days. But whilst it’s going to be a long haul it is possible.”

Mr Turner predicts that tougher times are ahead as the government reduces spending in the NHS.

He said: “No doubt more challenges will be thrown our way and at other hospitals. The demands continue to grow with patient expectations still there.”

One of the major expenditures, which was blamed for the huge deficit, was on the trust’s dependency on expensive agency staff.

Mr Turner said: “We are making progress in some areas of using agency staff but in other areas we have got ongoing problems . We’ve still got some way to go before we can resolve that.

“We are still forced to spend far too much on temporary medical staff.”

Mr Turner said this problem is not just in Lincolnshire, but the area does not help to attract people.

Another aspect being looked at under the three-year transformation plan is patients’ length of stay in hospital.

He said: “We’re working to discharge patients that little bit quicker, which reduces the need for so many beds. We’ve been able to close some of the beds down across all of the sites without detriment to patient care.”

Part of the transformation plan is also to increase services at Grantham to stop people going outside the area for treatment.

Mr Turner said: “If more people use our services then we generate additional income.”

Other aspects of the plan include looking at nurse productivity. In some cases nurses are being trained to do tasks that were previously conducted by doctors. And using theatre time more efficiently.

He added: “We are trying to put as many patients through the theatre as we can, whilst being safe so we don’t have to spend more money putting theatre on.”