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NHS Trust which runs Stamford Hospital and Peterborough City Hospital announces improved recruitment figures, but gloomy financial and performance numbers point to ‘a challenging year ahead’

The NHS Trust, which runs Peterborough City Hospital and Stamford Hospital, has announced improved recruitment figures, but gloomy financial and performance numbers point to ‘a challenging year ahead’

North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which is also responsible for Hinchingbrooke Hospital, announced it has recruited more than 800 new staff in the last year during yesterday's (Tuesday) public board meeting held in Stamford.

Of those, the majority have elected to be retained, and will now work either at city hospital or Hinchingbrooke or Stamford hospitals, both of which come under the trust.

Chairman of the trust Rob Hughes and CEO Caroline Walker (9485179)
Chairman of the trust Rob Hughes and CEO Caroline Walker (9485179)

Speaking at the public board meeting, chairman Rob Hughes said: “It is very pleasing to know that the time and effort we’re putting into training these people is benefitting us when we retain them.

“March has been a great month for staff recruitment with 20 new nurses starting their respective induction programmes.

“In addition, 11 overseas nurses started their Objective Structured Clinical Examination preparation programme from which we have had excellent pass rates in the past.

“Steps are now firmly in place for our next round of recruitment for Nursing Training Associates, who will hopefully find rewarding careers within our organisation.”

CEO Caroline Walker added: “I received a letter from Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP assuring me that our 500 EU staff are vital to the smooth running of the three hospitals in the Trust.

“While there has been no decision yet about Brexit, I have been assured that our EU staff are safe and that they will continue to make the UK their home after the EU exit arrangements have been finalised.”

While the recruitment and retainment of staff figures ‘…made good reading’, the financial and performance figures were ‘gloomy’, and point to a ‘…challenging year ahead’, according to Keith Reynolds, Assistant Director of Strategy.

“Our system is financially challenged, and although the recent increase in national funding is welcome, the trust remains significantly underfunded based on the population we serve.

“The trust currently has a deficit of £61.5m for the financial year 2018/19, which means we have overspent by £15m against our Government Regulated and agreed Control Total of £46.5m.

“We plan to deliver a £7m year on year improvement which will reduce the deficit down to £54.5m, starting with this current financial year 2019/20.

“However, our current Government Regulator Control Total offer for 2019/20 is only £35.3m, which we believe to be unachievable.

“Until that figure can be agreed all other matters remain in the balance.”

A ‘Control Total’ is an annual figure agreed upon by each NHS Trust in advance of any funding help from the Government, and represents a series of strict and usually non-negotiable conditions set out by NHS Improvement, NHS England and the Department of Health.

The problem with ‘Control Totals’ is that they are agreed in advance with the Government Regulator, and Trusts are then expected to remain within the figure agreed. But more than a third of NHS Trusts in the

UK are failing to meet their Control Totals.

Keith Reynolds, assistant director strategy for the trust, speaking at the meeting (9485569)
Keith Reynolds, assistant director strategy for the trust, speaking at the meeting (9485569)

There was ‘gloomy’ news too as far as performance was concerned with many critical patient expectation numbers still falling below target.

Joanne Bennis, Chief Nurse and Executive Director said: “Nutritional screening, waiting times, cancer care, two week waiting times, referral to treatment and diagnostic access performances all fell in March 2019, compared to February figures.

“Of particular concern has been the Frail and Elderly Care Unit at Peterborough, which failed its achievement target (98 per cent), gaining just 91 per cent performance.

“While this is very disappointing, the overall performance figures for the trust were slightly up against our system position (annual) at 80.1 per cent, compared to 78.2 per cent in February.

“Across the three hospitals in the trust, 21 wards achieved all three targets set, two wards achieved two out of three targets. But six wards achieved only one target, and thee wards failed to achieve any of their targets at all.

“The Trust did achieve 91 per cent performance for complaints that were responded to within the 30 working days requirement.

“Overall, performance has decreased from 98.8 per cent in February (920 patients out of 931), down to 96.5 per cent in March (818 patients out of 848).”

Several Board Members reiterated concerns that they have voiced in the past that the Executive Management team ‘…may not have the right plans in play’, especially when it comes to what is being delivered from external partners.

But chairman Rob Hughes defended the decisions, saying: “We need to have confidence in the people that we’ve put in positions of responsibility, and this all takes time.

“We need to be patient right now – we will ‘catch some fish’, of that I’m sure; improvements are coming.

“We’ve been here for six years now, and this is the first year that our finances have seriously missed their targets, which is nothing to be proud about.

“But it does give us an incentive for the coming year to do much better.”

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