East Kent hospitals trust among ‘most challenged’ in country as deficit grows

Hospital trust

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

A hospital trust is among the “most challenged” in the country, as it faces a deficit of nearly £70m.

The financial troubles of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) are so severe it remains under NHS England oversight, with bosses calling in independent consultants to explain the reasons behind their struggles.

The trust’s board of directors were told during a meeting last Thursday [December 7] that at the end of October it had recorded a black hole of £68.2 million. That is £22.7 million more than the deficit planned by this point in the year.

Continuing at the current rate would see the deficit rise to well above the £72 million hoped for by April 2024.

The trust, which runs Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, as well as sites in Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone and Dover, has failed consistently to deliver savings it planned to make over this financial year.

New chief financial officer Tim Glenn, brought in from Royal Papworth Hospital Trust in Cambridge on a one-year secondment, told the board the financial woes are “an outlier nationally”.

He said: “I don’t need to tell the board that the cost improvement plan delivery this year has been far from ideal; we need a much, much better position from that.

“We’re working really hard to get those programmes of work up and running we’ve got some additional support coming in to make sure that we kick on with them at pace.”

Richard Oirschot, chairman of the finance committee, added: “Very little progress has been made in achieving the savings.”

Chair of the board Niall Dickson later explained the trust is in level 4 of the NHS Oversight Framework, “designed for the most challenged organisations”.

“We have a desire and a plan to move ourselves out of that but as I think everyone knows it’s been extremely challenging,” he said.

NHS papers describe this level of oversight from NHS England as being for bodies with “very serious, complex issues manifesting as critical quality and/or finance concerns that require intensive support”.

The trust was scheduled to move to a reduced level of oversight in March 2024, but Moira Durbridge of NHS England said during the meeting: “We can all see here that we’re not going to meet the requirements for that.”

A spokesperson for the trust confirmed that a revised forecast will be presented to the board in the new year.

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

In 2012 the South London NHS Healthcare Trust, which ran three hospitals, was axed in the face of severe financial woes.

It was placed in administration after accumulating debts of almost £150 million, and its functions were split between other NHS bodies and private companies.

It is rare for NHS trusts to fall into such a situation, but when facing especially severe financial crises they can be placed into administration, special measures, or scrapped, and their services taken on by other bodies instead.

East Kent Hospitals has commissioned consultancy giant Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC) to write a report on the drivers behind its swelling deficit, expected before the end of the month.

When asked why the trust needs external support to explain the reasons, Mr Glenn said: “It’s really really important that we have a baseline that everyone understands, that is independently verified.”

Previously, an unplanned pay award and strike action have been given as some of the reasons for the deficit.

The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Buckland Hospital in Dover and Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone, are all of part of EKHUFT.


  1. It’s one of the biggest trust so it should get the biggest funds to back it up. The evil Tories get everything and everyone into debt.

    • It’s nothing to do with the Tory’s don’t forget the trusts are independent and rely on to much private medicine within the trust the strikes were all unnecessary wanting more money something unthinkable in the past stop using agency nurses at a high price that decision is a trust decision not government as it’s getting near a general election opposition supporters always come out of the woodwork thr blame game once again.

      • It’s everything to do with the Tories & their continual failure to fund the NHS as per inflation. Trusts now have private healthcare profiteers on their boards {as per 2022 H&C act} so money is diverted from patient care to shareholder & CEO bonuses & dividends

    • Bill – give it a rest please, your becoming boring with same old song – not everything is the fault of one political party.

      • But Bill is absolutely correct.
        The Tory government, under half-a-dozn PMs, has underfunded the NHS year after year. It has outsourced services to private enterprize – entities that exist solely to make money, not provide services.
        That’s nit to say that recent(ish) Labour governments under Blair haven’t caused their share of problems, with the disastrous expansion of John Major’s PFI schemes.

  2. I was in QEQM’s A&E this week. Absolutely diabolical conditions for both the patients and the teams working there. Rammed in a side room with dozens of other patients – three of them were vomiting into cardboard bowls, one was on an oxygen tank due complications of COVID infection. I had to share a drip hanger with another patient, like everyone else in the same room, meaning I was unable to go to the toilet without being disconnected. Not only were there several patients to a side room, they were allowing 4+ relatives in there with them too. All health and results updates were given in front of everyone else, no confidentiality due to sitting literally on top of each other. Everyone who took care of me were great – the conditions were absolutely rancid.

    • Did you not ask for assistance to the toilet the drips have wheels where you can walk to the toilet it’s done on the wards some patients don’t need to go to A&S out of our doctors or even pharmacies came help the last time I was up there I was in and out less than four hours would not have been any different at the other hospitals in East Kent many patients do not neef to go there usually people who throw up usually to much alcohol or drugs. Nothing different elsewhere general election coming up the blame game again wasn’t any difference with labour if you want to blame the Tory’s.

    • Do you think the chaos might be due to the 150,000 healthcare professionals vacancies? And maybe the government on going closure of beds?
      The UK is at the bottom of Doctor:Patient graphs with 2.8:1000 with the exception of Turkey. The highest is Greece with 6.1 .
      Ref: Health at a Glance: Europe 2020 : State of Health in the EU Cycle

  3. the senior management dont complain on thier wages and pension schemes , the health service is going down the pan thanks to the tories , its in managed decline like they do to everything ! we need an election now

  4. I believe that those who deliberately make themselves ill – through either smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse or obesity – should be given lower priority. That’s the trouble with this country, we’re a very unhealthy population who expects everything for free.

  5. The last 2 visits to the qmqe .it’s been like a war zone . Its not there fault you can only work with what you have. They have treated me well. Last visit border force turned up with 3 people and jumped the queue which didn’t go down well with some waiting patients.

    • The urgency with which people are seen depends on their medical condition, not their race, colour, ethnicity, religious convictions, status … etc.

      • Wrong: because of international law, un-processed immigrants must be given a certain standard of health care, as well as food and accomodation. Otherwise, they’d be thrown straight onto the streets, along with the British homeless.

        • Migrants are indeed entitled to certain levels of NHS treatment, free of charge.
          They are not entitled to privileged access to treatment.

          • You believe that fresh arrivals are expected to wait 24 hours in A&E, along with the security looking after them?

        • Then Cruella would be stealing their tents, along with those of the homeless war veterans she claims to love so much.

  6. As always old Checksfield weighs in with his blame culture comment,based as always on prejudice and a holier than thou attitude.
    The background to this matter is poverty, where Thanet has some of the worst deprivation indices in the UK.An ageing population due to an indigenous population in poor health,internal migration for retirement purposes (Birchington,Kingsgate and Westgate), with all their health needs, persistent under funding over at least a decade,covid, poor industrial relations, poor management, no workforce plan, a bonkers set of targets, four different software systems and of course a defunct local adult social services system.
    Nothing fails like failure and this is why no one wants to work there.The EKHT has failed comprehensively.
    So what to do?
    New leadership, some money, workable plans and a break up of the trust. KCC ought to be restructured as it too is responsible for this mess.
    A better balance between private and public provision. Settle with the doctors. Stop charging them for parking for a start.Make sure a new doctor or nurse that is recruited can be slotted in,by making sure that all the PPE, implements, bandages etc are in standard locations and are regularly topped up.Get rid of the deadwood at all levels, because they do more harm than good if they are tolerated. CUT DOWN ON PAPERWORK. All practitioners complain about this. Boost pharmacies , sort out some really poor primary care.
    This is a big job for an outstanding leader,the grey functionaries ‘leading’ the NHS and local govt are not the right stuff.

    • My grandparents’ generation knew TRUE poverty. So they walked everywhere and didn’t eat much, staying relatively fit despite smoking and eating fatty food. Even in my own school years (60s/70s), I can’t recall ever seeing any really fat pupils (the “fatties” of then would be considered normal totay), nor can I recall anyone getting lifts too or from school. So yes, I DO blame people, for eating too much and not exercising enough.

  7. What a damaged individual you are! My father died at an early age, was it because he was fat? No, it was because he died of cancer.My brother the same.Yes, we could all improve our life styles,eat less processed food, take more exercise,drink less alcohol,stop smoking,and that will help,but not solve the problem of a failing trust.
    The average life expectancy is around 81, but the average age limit of good health is 61 and around here there are an awful lot of 61+ year olds.
    You are also ignoring poor housing and precarious load paid work in Thanet these are also factors in why levelled down areas like Thanet are in trouble.
    I do hope you don’t turn up to the QEQM and find the medical staff criticising you for your lifestyle before treatment you unpleasant little puritan.
    It would really be peachy next time if you could suggest viable options instead of blaming the poor,the old and the sick,for being poor,old and sick.

    • Oh, and A&E (Ashford rather than QEQM – I was blue-lighted nearly 30 miles away) actually PRAISED my lifestyle, telling me that it was probably thanks to my physical fitness that I survived a heart attack with only moderate lasting damage. Within 3 months, I went from able to walk just a few yards unaided to rambling for 10 hilly miles… all thanks to decades of cycling and keeping trim, as well as sheer determination during cardio re-hab sessions.

      OK, boy, tell us all your medical history.

      • Too much exercise is bad for your heart-as proven by your attack & many super-fit people that keep dropping dead in their twenties, thirties & forties. All those decades of cycling & clean living & you had a heart attack at what age?

        • Nothing to do with that. It was a (one) clogged artery, thanks probably to all the bread and dripping sandwiches as a child and fry-ups when I was in the building trade in my late teens/early 20s.

          • Fat is actually good for you-the science saying it wasn’t was actually highly flawed. Likely the sugar in all those ‘energy’ drinks, protein shakes & Dextrose tablets.

  8. There’s a lovely story on here about a man who has overcome extreme adversity to become fit – and it has largely been ignored. What a sad world we live in when “victims” are praised more than heroes.

  9. I see Checksfield,you have no answers just insults and slogans.When you resort to diversion tactics (the feel good fitness story) and disparaging phrases, everyone can see that you are losing the argument.
    What are you going to do shout at the patients waiting for treatment? Tell them that they are lacking in moral fibre?
    Things may be black and white in your little world,but in reality things are not so cut and dried.

    • Oh, so you won’t tell us about your fitness routine? Another “victim” I guess, who blames the world for his problems.

      • I’ll tell you mine:
        Up at 05:00. 30 mile bike ride.
        08:00. Breakfast of porridge and juice.
        09:00 10 mile run.
        11:00. Stick of celery and an apple.
        11:30. Swim to Broadstairs.
        12:00. Sunrise Cafe for a large fish and chips (with mushy peas)
        12:30 Down the pub, for 5-6 pints of stout.
        And still half a day to go.

      • No I walk a lot,use public transport and realise that activity both physical and mental is a requisite for a healthy life.
        Of course being deafened by machinery and recovering from a pretty painful back injury doesn’t help,but then those who never worked in heavy engineering wouldn’t know about industrial injuries,Ki suspect the heaviest thing Checksfield picked up was a 45 record.
        Right what’s your next complaint? You are running out of road.

          • So you are Checksfield the scaffolder’s mate.
            According to your argument you were responsible for being in hospital.Now I know that is poppycock, but maybe throwing crisps at the staff is not a great recovery plan.

          • I was told I was just unlucky (I had ONE blocked artery), but they also told me that it would’ve been far, far worse – possibly resulting in death – if I hadn’t been otherwise very fit at the time.

  10. By the way the Cliftonville dad story is heartwarming,and we should all, where we can, follow his example, but I am afraid even if everyone rose up and changed lifestyle,it won’t alter the damage that poor housing,poverty, precarious work and a ‘challenged ‘ health care system is doing.

  11. I had a heart attack march 22 . I was in the qeqm for 10 days . I was looked after so well. And my GP is a superb Dr.

    • Good to hear it. Did you do cardio rehab afterwards?

      I was looked after fine by medical staff in Ashford, and was deemed well enough to go home after 3 days. The catering staff were appalling though, throwing bags of crisps on patient’s beds – I threw it back and insisted they got me a banana instead!

  12. I found all the food was very good. My only gripe was waiting for 5 hrs in the discharge waiting area . For my medication .

  13. Well it’s all very nice to hear that some patients have received excellent care and that the outcomes were positive,but it doesn’t alter the fact that the trust is too large,is deep in debt and has been the locus for several really poor instances of deeply rooted dysfunction.
    I don’t think it is either helpful or instructional to root around in the health records of interlocutors to satisfy some virtue signalling in a passive aggressive way.
    Things aren’t good reform is required and I have suggested some options.That is what debate is about.Falling down rabbit holes on who has the best personal fitness from Lily the Pink (a pop historian and scaffolder’s mate will see the link here) is not getting us anywhere.

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