Cutting non-medical jobs at the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) could be key to making £20m savings, the trust’s new chief executive has said.

Christine Allen started in the top job last month, and in her first interview set out a five-year strategy for the JPH.

While the Gorleston hospital must make £20m savings by 2018 to meet a drop in central funding, Ms Allen said she is confident patient care will not suffer.

And she revealed ambitious plans for the JPH to buy new land to build a “health campus”, refurbish wards and corridors and bring in supervisory nurses across the hospital.

Among the first challenges facing Ms Allen is how to make cuts, and she was clear about where they will not be made.

“We’re not looking to frontline nurses at all,” she said. “We’re looking to people with management in their title.

“It’s difficult as it is for any hospital, but we’re putting a lot of effort in.

“The thing is to balance the money with the quality.”

She said a year-long management review began this month, and staff working in support services such as finance and IT are among those that could be affected.

While no target has been set for the amount to be trimmed from management costs, Ms Allen hopes the JPH can share some of these services with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in future.

Other ways of making the required savings include reducing length of hospital stay, and reviewing procurement to ensure best value for money is being achieved.

She said there is a rolling programme of recruitment for medical staff, with 60 nurses taken on this spring.

While many of them are Portuguese - due to a shortage of trained English nurses - Ms Allen said there have been no issues with the language barrier.

“They fit in really well with the team,” she explained. “Our Portuguese nurses all speak very good English and have a very caring ethos for elderly patients.”

A new director of nursing - Liz Libiszewski - began at the JPH this month.

Among the investments in the pipeline are £9m to overhaul operating theatres, once work to refurbish pathology labs is completed, and a £1.4m expansion of the accident and emergency department.

Another scheme being investigated is a health campus on land to be bought behind the hospital.

This would include services such as a third party pharmacy, social care and links with primary care and GPs.

But Ms Allen said her first task as chief executive was to get a feel for the hospital.

“I spent the first few weeks getting out and talking to staff,” she said. “It’s a difficult time in general for the NHS but they’ve come through it with real strength.

“I’ve been really impressed with everyone I‘ve met so far.”

She added she has gauged the views of patients and governors.

The hospital was handed three warning notices by watchdog the Care Quality Commission after a first failed inspection in autumn 2011.

It was given a clean bill of health last year, but Ms Allen said staff must not be complacent.

“We don’t get it right all the time, but we need to be ready to put things right as soon as we discover them,” she said. “As soon as we stop that we become complacent and we’ve come so far we never want to go there again.”

Ms Allen, who was previously deputy chief executive and chief operating officer at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust, said her main priority is patient safety and quality and ensuring changes were embedded.

“There’s always more to do, but there’s been some good work and I’m keen to give staff back their pride,” she said.

On the issue of building the East Coast Hospice in hospital grounds she said the door “is always open”.

And she said she is keen to grow the hospital’s research arm through strong links with the University of East Anglia (UEA).