Crunch meeting for East Kent hospital trust over £50m deficit

Hospital trust
By Local democracy reporter Daniel Esson
An NHS trust is set to hold a crunch meeting over its finances as its deficit grows to more than £50 million.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHT) had overspent by £8.4 million by the end of August, with bosses saying they were “likely to run out of cash by the end of November.”

By the end of September, the trust had overspent by a total of £14.4 million, with its deficit standing at £50.3 million, compared to the £35.9 million it was meant to be at this point in the year.

The trust runs hospitals in Canterbury, Dover, Ashford, Margate, and Folkestone and serves 700,000 people.

Hospital bosses has previously stressed that such financial problems don’t impact their ability to provide services or pay staff.

‘Extremely challenging’

At an online meeting of the trust’s board of directors on October 5, non-executive director Richard Oirschot said that not exceeding the planned £72 million deficit by the start of April would be “extremely challenging.”

Stewart Baird, another non-executive, also told the meeting: “We as a trust are still struggling to cope and meet the demand.

“The activity levels arriving at our front door are still extraordinarily high and we’re acutely aware as we walk into the winter period that this situation is likely to get worse.”

Mr Baird explained that the board had also agreed to “get a special meeting in over the next few weeks and certainly ahead of the next board meeting,” on November 2, to discuss the trust’s finances.

He explained the meeting, which will not be public, would be to “demonstrate that we have tire kicked all the opportunities here, that we’ve looked at all the tough decisions, that we’ve looked at all the slightly off the wall decisions and really explored every avenue.”

Michelle Stevens, chief finance officer, said that unplanned events, such as industrial action, worsened the trust’s finances.

A report to the board of directors shows that the majority of the overspend is from failure to deliver planned efficiency savings – which has cost the trust £11.49m.

‘Continue dedicated work’

In a statement given after the meeting, Ms Stevens said: “Staff from the across the trust are continuing with dedicated work that will enable us to improve our productivity and improve our financial position.

“This work includes control measures such as stricter control on recruitment to non-clinical jobs, continuing with our investment oversight group for non-essential purchases and reducing our use of agency staff, which is starting to show results.

“Patient safety is our top priority, whilst we know there is more work to be done to lower our deficit, we will always ensure there is no impact on patient care.”

The trust added that industrial action has cost the trust £1.1m, and in September they managed to reduce their spending on agency staff by £874k.

National Protocol working

When coffers are empty, NHS trusts have their spending re-forecasted through a process called the National Protocol working with NHS England, and new cash is made available.

In 2012 the South London NHS Healthcare Trust – which ran three hospitals in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley – was scrapped in the face of financial woes.

The trust was placed in administration after accumulating debts of almost £150 million, losing about £1m a week, and it was divvied up between other NHS bodies and private companies.

It’s rare for NHS trusts to fall into such a situation, but when facing especially severe financial woes they can be placed into administration, special measures, or scrapped and their functions taken up by other NHS bodies instead.


  1. So, you can’t get to see your Gp, the doctors and consultants have been on strike for numerous days, operations cancelled left right and centre, yet they manage to run up a huge deficit. Basic accounting, you can’t pay your staff more than you can afford, and you can’t spend more than your budget, unless you make cutbacks in other areas.
    The NHS needs to get a grip, and start working within its means.

    • I do e joy these tory comments. Make the workers work for peanuts whilst top manager earn millions.

      The reason so many people are on strike is because of 13 or so years of Tories screwing us.

    • John, there is more demand nowadays mainly due to a greater elderly population! Also, the lack of Social Care so patients can be treated at home, instead of in hospital “Bed Blocking”.

  2. The Conservatives have allowed this situation to come about it suits them the worse they can make the NHS the better it is for the private sector. The Tories could not run a bath let alone the NHS they’ve allowed private companies. To leech off the NHS making shareholders rich at the UK taxpayers expense. Private firms are not there for the benefit of the patients they’re there for the benefit of shareholders. There is not one public service including the NHS that the wicked evil Conservatives are not rude and not one.

  3. The government has spent lots of money improving the qeqm hospital in Margate changes to the a&e department have a look around including other hospitals do not forget the opposition founded trusts many years ago hospitals are not run by government it’s down to bad management at hospitals.

  4. Hear hear Bill. Brian re:NHS TRUST . They were introduced by a Conservative government led by John Major in 1991 and the model was extended further from 2004 when the Labour government launched the first NHS foundation trusts with greater autonomy and local accountability.1

  5. Shortage of workers, cost-cutting, staff sickness etc etc, etc, it all leads to the same thing, patients don’t get the care they deserve.

  6. Thanet has manifold problems.An ageing population,poor housing, deprivation,low wages,and low educational attainment.All these impinge on the NHS.You cannot divide one problem from another, they are all interlinked.
    If we add in a past history of underfunding since 2010,you can see where we are.Yes, the Govt is putting in money now,but the damage is done.
    That said the trust is too large and too unwieldy.The row over a centralised stroke centre based in Ashford is a case in point.The centralising management saw only benefits in a single HASU,and refused to acknowledge the problems of doing so.
    It’s not helped by the chaotic IT systems in the NHS, which I believe has 4 running currently.
    A new government should seek to slowly and carefully rationalise these systems and reduce bureaucracy for practitioners.Another helpful move forward would be to shift away from a blame culture towards a learning culture that really does ‘learn lessons ‘.
    A NHS workforce plan should not only ensure that there are enough doctors,nurses,and specialists,but also address the silo management culture.
    Doing a deal with the doctors might be a good start, by bringing them in and negotiating with them. There is a lot that could be done that would assuage their feelings and would not cost much if at all.
    Shouting that all the managers should be sacked and the doctors frog marched back to work,all sounds good, and may make our shouty keyboard reactionaries feel good, but it does not do the business.

  7. I know of 4 people who’ve recently been told they’ll be treated ( far sooner than they expected) via the spencer wing ( the ekht private health care spin off), so extra funding must be coming from somewhere.

  8. The hospital needs to address the amount of money it wastes on poor stock management and the amount of drugs written off either due to the going out of date or not stored correctly.

  9. M.P.’s should get on a ferry and go to France where they will see a Health Service that works. Sure enough you have to pay, but this filters out the time wasters.

Comments are closed.