Peterborough NHS Monitor Report – MP Meets Minister

nhs17:07 Friday 7th June 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust has been told it’s financially unsustainable in its current form. A report from Monitor says the Trust will continue to operate at a deficit of at least £38 million each year for the next five years. It’s also been suggested they would not be able to pay its staff or buy any more medical supplies if the Department of Health does not intervene. Well let’s put this in some context. Here’s our reporter Alex Harris. Alex, tell us what’s been going on.
ALEX HARRIS: Well the new Peterborough Hospital opened three years ago, and was built with Private Finance Initiative money, in a deal signed off by Labour back in 2007. It was a decision given the go ahead by the East of England Strategic Health Authority and Trust bosses, but that decision turned out to be costly. The Trust found itself battling a multi-million pound debt, as it still is, with the failure to shift the old site of the hospital, which remains unsold. Now the Trust has received a number of Government bail-outs, which the taxpayers are paying to keep the Trust afloat. These are to the tune of £2 million a month for the next 30 years or so. Well clinicians and MPs have maintained throughout however that patients care has not suffered, but finances are a different matter, and a report that we will be seeing today compiled by Price Waterhouse Cooper says that while the Hospital is deemed clinically sound, it is financially unstable in its current form. It’s deficit has reduced, and at the end of the 2012 financial year it stood at £45 million. It’s come down to £37 million, but that deficit will continue. And for the next five years, the report says it will rack up a deficit of at least £38 million every year. But perhaps most worryingly is the long term prognosis of the Trust’s finances. The report says that without future bailouts, without more Government intervention, the Trust will not be able to pay staff salaries, and will not be able to pay for medicines.
CHRIS MANN: Alex Harris with that background report. Well let’s find out more about this. Stewart Jackson is the Conservative MP for Peterborough. Hello Stewart.
STEWART JACKSON: Good afternoon Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Talk to you in just a moment or two, but first of all, Dr Peter Reading is the Interim Chief Executive of Peterborough and Stamford NHS Trust. Hello Peter.
PETER READING: Good afternoon Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Truly frightening numbers. A massive deficit. What’s the future?
PETER READING: Oh the numbers are bad, aren’t they? The future is, first of all, we carry on treating patients the way we do. We continue paying our billls, and paying our staff, because we will get bailouts from the Department of Health. But what this report points towards is a second report which is due out again in the Summer, which is to look at options for how the deficit can best be reduced. Because it’s going to continue for at least five years, and to be honest I think beyond that, unless something is done..
CHRIS MANN: Is this any way to run a health service, any way to run a hospital?
PETER READING: Well in terms of running the Hospital, the report confirms that what we’re offering patients is of a very high standard, and that’s good news for our patients, and great credit to our staff. And in terms of running the Hospital, I have to say also that over the last year, our staff has done a fabulous job in terms of improving efficiency. We saved £13.4 million from our costs last year, and we’re on course to save a further £13 million on top of that this year. So we are becoming more efficient, and working really hard at that. But what the report says is that even those levels of efficiency savings will only allow us to stand still, in terms of the deficit, because of other things going on in the Health Service. So this is a Health Service issue, not just a Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals issue.
CHRIS MANN: But when you use words like “failings”, “efficiency” and you talk about “a debt” here, people will get nervous, because they think that frankly care is going to get cut, that front line services are going to get cut, that the fact that this is an important thing in people’s lives is forgotten in the chase to look at the bottom line.
PETER READING: I understand those anxieties. What I can say to your listeners to reassure them is that I think the NHS generally has learned an awful lot from what’s gone on in the last few years, and high-profile scandals like mid-Staffordshire. There are now a whole series of safeguards built in, so when I say we’re delivering efficiency savings, they are efficiency savings. They aren’t cuts in quality of care. Every measure we take to improve efficiency has a quality assurance impact statement done to go with it. That’s a bureaucratic phrase, but what it is basically, our Chief Nurse and our Medical Director check that there is no bad effect on quality, and then that is double-checked by our local GPs through their Clinical Commissioning Group.
CHRIS MANN: Will the old hospital ever be sold?
PETER REDDING: We announced last year that we’d selected a preferred bidder for the old hospital, Lands Improvement Holdings. And that was after going out to the open market after some rather difficult attempts to develop a joint venture in previous years which came to nothing unfortunately. So we went out to the market. We’ve selected a preferred bidder. And we are now, what I hope, in what I hope is the final stages of concluding the deal, It’a a massive site. It’s a complicated site, because it involves complicated demolition, moving other services off it, which is still on it, and so on. So it’s not straightforward. But I’m reasonably confident that by the end of the Summer we will be .. we will either have closed the deal, or we’ll be only a whisker away from closing the deal.
CHRIS MANN: Peter, let’s get reaction from what you just said from Stewart Jackson, who is the Conservative MP for Peterborough of course. Hello Stewart again.
CHRIS MANN: Truly shocking report. People will be pretty concerned about this. What do you read into it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well first of all I’d like to pay tribute to what Peter Reading has done. He has steadied the ship, and he’s kept on track in terms of the delivery of clinical services and staff morale, in very very difficult circumstances. Remember, Peter has had to deal with historic problems, the disastrous PFI contract, other problems such as GP out of hours service contracts, which the previous Government negotiated which has had an impact on say accident and emergency, larger numbers of older people needing secondary care in the District Hospital. These are massive issues. And the fact we’ve still got an effective and efficient hospital which has been found to be operationally and clinically sustainable, and a great health care facility, is testament to the great professionalism of the senior management team, and the people at the Hospital. That said, it is not sustainable in the long term. And we can’t just say, well, we’re going to have a £200 million bung from central Government. Treasury Ministers and Health Ministers need to look at this issue. And we may need to look at sharing clinical services, reconfiguration, more efficiency savings and new governance structures. Because £38/40 million a year to bail the Trust out is just not a going concern.
CHRIS MANN: Doesn’t it show that all the changes to the health service are for nothing, that this a waste of time, the way things are run these days? Why do we talk about individual debts of hospitals? Why not just talk about one health service?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think that’s a fair point. But I think that harks back to the findings of the Public Accounts Committee at the end of last year, which was that really the Strategic Health Authority back in 2007 really right up to 2010 took its eye of the ball, and should have been looking at how each of the individual hospitals and Primary Care Trusts were inter-connected and worked with each other in ou local and regional health economy. And the failed to do it, which is why we have the problem of a very dodgy PFI at Peterborough, a private franchise at Hinchinbrooke, and other governance arrangements at places like Addenbrookes and Leicester Royal Infirmary. Someone who was in charge of Strategic Health wasn’t doing their job correctly, and unfortunately people like Dr Reading are having to pick up the pieces. But as I say, I believe that the model across the NHS is sustainable. It’s just in Peterborough, with huge immigration, huge population changes, number of old people, and the PFI, all coming together in a perfect storm, has presented the Hospital Trust with one of the most difficult situations imaginable.
CHRIS MANN: And what are you going to say to the Health Minister Jeremy Hunt when you next see him?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I’m going to see him Chris on Monday. I’m going to have a sandwich lunch with some other MPs. And I’m going to .. really .. two things I’m going to put to him. One is that we need a long term financial sustainable solution from central government, from the top down, for very bad cases of PFI, where it’s gone wrong, where it’s a very poor disadvantageous contract, as in Peterborough. And secondly we desperately need more help to cope with demographic change, particularly the number of over-85s that Peterborough Hospital and others are having to treat. A significantly higher increase in older people. People assume Peterborough is a young city. Well it’s got an ageing population, and at the moment we’re only just about keeping our head above water and coping with that.
CHRIS MANN: Thank you gentlemen for joining me.