Higher demand and locum costs means another deficit

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The Western Trust says it’s experienced a financially challenging year and will report a deficit for 2014/15 mainly due to increasing costs of medical locums and increasing demand for domiciliary care and family support services.

The Trust issued the statement in response to a new report from Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly, which has warned that emergency monitoring round bail outs from the Executive have merely papered over severe funding pressures at the Western Trust and other health authorities which failed to break even in 2013/14.

The spokesperson stated: “The Western Trust was established in 2007 and reported a breakeven position up until 2013/14, when along with three other Trusts in Northern Ireland it reported a deficit of £2.1m.

“This deficit represents 0.3 per cent of the Trust’s total expenditure for 2013/14 of over £600m.

“Over the past six years the Trust has been required to make cash savings of £66m and in 2015/16 the Trust is required to make further savings amounting to £13m.”

Last week Mr Donnelly warned that “going forward it is clear that HSC Trusts can no longer anticipate that they will receive additional in-year funding to cover their deficits.”

In the new General Report on the Health and Social Care Sector 2012/13 and 2013/14, Mr Donnelly said the financial health of the local health service is “weak and declining.”

Now the Western Trust has confirmed this continued last year.

“The Trust has experienced a financially challenging year during 2014/15 and will report a deficit in 2014/15 mainly due to increasing costs of medical locums and increasing demand for domiciliary care and family support services,” the spokesperson stated.

The high cost of locums is an ongoing issue for the Trust.

Figures released recently show that from January to October last year £7,561,000 was spent employing locum doctors in the Trust, which dwarfed expenditure in every other Trust bar Belfast.

It was also confirmed that the Trust spent more money on locum nurses and health care assistants (£3,476,031) than the Southern and South Eastern Trusts although the Northern and Belfast Trusts spent more on locums who were not doctors. Four years ago another Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) report revealed the cost of expensive locum cover in the Western Trust accounted for almost 17 per cent of medical staffing.

“The Trust is currently confirming its funding allocation for 2015/16 with the Health and Social Care Board which will be concluded in coming weeks and will inform the Trust’s financial plan for 2015/16,” the Trust said.