THE HEART of England NHS Foundation Trust is under investigation by the health body regulator Monitor after reporting losses of £29.5 million since April – around £6 million per month.
But bosses at the Trust – which runs Solihull, Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals – have been quick to defend the use of hospital cash reserves – claiming their priority has been to ensure the very best services for patients.
The Trust has been under fire in recent years for failing to meet many targets, including waiting times at A&E and operation waiting times.
Such was the scrutiny it led to the axeing of former boss Mark Newbold following claims by Monitor that there were serious failures in his leadership.
Interim Chief executive Andrew Foster was appointed in January and will remain in position until October 31.
But it is these failures – and the desire to put them right – that has seen the financial problems come to the fore.
Dr Andrew Catto, Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Medical Director at Heart of England Foundation Trust, said: “This is a very serious situation and the Trust already has plans in place which it believes will make a difference quickly.
“This is not an investigation into the quality of care that HEFT provides, it is part of a normal response when a trust is not performing as expected, and with the current financial problems across the NHS, is not unique to this trust.
“The Trust accepts responsibility for this difficult financial position, conscious decisions were made to invest heavily in making improvements for patients such as reducing the waiting times in A&E, ensuring shorter waiting times for operations and the recruitment of 160 new nurses.
“The welfare of our patients and staff is the most important thing and this will not be compromised.”
Birmingham MP Liam Byrne has claimed the ‘meltdown’ of HNS services is responsible for the spiralling £30 million debt at the Heart of England NHS Trust, with cuts to social care and CP services in the areas around Heartlands Hospital meaning the hospital had been left to pick up the pieces to provide care.
Industry experts have also called for a greater sympathy for hospital trusts as they do their best to manage services and finances – all with the very best interests of the public in mind.
Nicola Burgess, of Warwick Business School, is an Associate Professor of Operations Management and researches management in the NHS.
She said: “The solution, according to Monitor, is that Foundation Trusts need to undergo radical change in order to remedy the crisis.
“Yet, the NHS is constantly battling with disruptive and radical change.
“Perhaps it is this constant drive for radical change – or ‘redisorganisation’ as it is affectionately known – that leads to the present crisis we face today.
“If quality of care is paramount, the NHS needs to manage financial concerns carefully so that staff do not become burdened with financial woes that prevent a more innovative and can-do approach to improving care.
“All too often when Foundation Trusts run into trouble, through finance, quality or both, the regulators swoop in so fast staff are left immobilised, fearing for their jobs and feeling like they’ve been doing it wrong.
“But there are a lot of things that the NHS and its doctors and nurses do get right.
“If the NHS is to tackle this crisis it needs to examine best practice as well as highlight areas which need to do better.
“Only by understanding what it is doing right and nurturing this will the NHS ever end this constant cycle of redisorganisation, fear and blame.”