Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust agrees steps to fix its finances
- Credit: Archant
The region's mental health trust has agreed steps to improve its poor finances after the regulator for foundation trusts intervened.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which was placed in special measures in February, has been under investigation by Monitor since November following a deterioration in its financial performance.
This investigation found that the trust had breached its licence to provide health care services on a sustainable basis by predicting a £9.4m deficit for 2015-16, and by not having an adequate recovery plan.
Monitor is helping the trust to fix these problems by appointing an improvement director at the trust and partnering it with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
The trust has also agreed to develop an 'ambitious and realistic' financial recovery plan, and to track the effectiveness of its financial management activity.
Laura Mills, deputy regional director at Monitor, said: 'We are pleased the trust has recognised that it must balance improving the quality of its patients' services with having a good control of its finances.
'These steps, if done effectively, should enable the trust to balance its books and ensure patients are able to receive quality services for the future.
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'The regulator will closely scrutinise the trust's progress in making these steps.'
Michael Scott, chief executive of the mental health trust, said: 'Although we have a clear plan to make savings, the focus for us is not only on balancing the books; it is on balancing cost savings against maintaining safe and high quality services.
'While we need to get our finances back into a healthy position, we are doing this over a longer period to protect our staff and our service users from further cuts.'
He said the trust had invested £2.6m into recruiting more staff into inpatient units and agreed an investment of just under £1m into the recruitment of additional community staff.
'We do all of this in the face of chronic under funding of mental health services, and these life-saving services remain the Cinderella of the NHS,' he said. 'We are determined to continue to campaign for increased funding.'
The trust is also expected to make £36m in efficiency savings over the next four years, and has already delivered around £44m in savings over the past four, he added.
'We will do everything we can to protect frontline services and we will look to make savings by more efficiently managing our estates and back office functions, wherever possible,' he said. 'But we would be naïve not to recognise that 2015-16 and into 2017-18 will be equally difficult for our trust and for other NHS trusts.'
He said patient numbers were steadily increasing, and the two major factors that had led the trust to its current financial position were a large increase in spend on temporary staffing in 2014-15, and placing large numbers of patients from central Norfolk in out-of-area acute beds.
'It will come as no surprise that our financial priorities will be to reduce these two cost pressures which will not only save money but, more importantly, will improve patient care,' said Mr Scott. 'The challenges our trust faces won't be solved overnight; it is going to be a long and steady process and there will be more challenges along the way.
'But we fully intend to meet these challenges head on.'