Fears over patient safety, job losses and service cuts at Whipps Cross and King George Hospitals as extent of debt emerges

Cllr Wes Streeting, left, and health campaigner Andy Walker have warned patient safety could be jeopardised, jobs could be lost and services cut as underperforming trust try to tackle huge debt.

Cllr Wes Streeting, left, and health campaigner Andy Walker have warned patient safety could be jeopardised, jobs could be lost and services cut as underperforming trust try to tackle huge debt.

First published in News
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East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter, covering Leytonstone and Wanstead. Call me on 07824 530 127

The health trusts running the two main hospitals serving the area have by far the biggest debts in London, raising fears for patient safety, jobs and services.

NHS figures show Barts Health, which runs Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, and Barking Havering and Redbridge Hospitals Trust (BHRUT), in charge of King George Hospital in Goodmayes, are both about £39million in the red.

This is nearly twice as much as the next most indebted trust.

Both hospitals have been ordered to raise care standards after damning assessments by the Care Quality Commission, making the job of saving millions without having an impact on patients even tougher.

Labour’s deputy leader of the council Wes Streeting, who is also cabinet member for health, has warned of difficult times ahead and fears patient safety could be jeopardised by attempts to address the shortfall.

He said; “It is worrying with BHRUT being in special measures and having to tackle these financial issues too, the only outcome I can see is job losses and closure of services.

“There are serious concerns about the quality of services provided by the Barts trust too.
“How both will cope with their deficits could cause serious risks for patients.

“The council is committed to working with both the trusts to find a solution to this financial crisis.”

BHRUT finance director, Rob Cooper, said an improvement plan published this week will improve standards and save money.

He added: “For example we plan to substantially reduce the number of agency staff we use. This will save millions of pounds, but we also know it will improve care for patients by having permanent, dedicated staff on our wards.

“We are also working to reduce the length of time patients have to stay in hospital by cutting waiting times for test results and making sure we have consultants on the wards seven days a week, caring for patients and discharging them back home as soon as they are ready.

“We are still investing heavily in front line care and equipment. These cost saving measures are not remotely detrimental to patient care. In fact they will improve it.”

Barts Health, which is one of the largest health trusts in the country, released a statement which said: “The reported deficit of £39m for the last financial year is significantly less than the £50m deficit forecast, and was made possible by the safe introduction of efficiency savings across Barts Health while at the same time improving our income performance.

"We remain committed to meeting our savings targets through the continued reduction of inefficiencies, while still providing the highest standards of patient care. 

“In November 2013 we launched a recruitment drive to significantly increase the number of permanent staff across the Trust, thereby reducing the reliance on more expensive bank and agency staff.

"This process is ongoing and to date we have recruited in excess of 1900 new members of staff, with a target of recruiting over 4500 new employees by the end of this year.”

Leader of the Save King George Hospital campaign, Andy Walker, has called for central government to bail out the trusts to ensure patient safety.

He said: “Hospitals are so important that they need to be helped, they need to be bailed out now by government to get them out of the red.

“It is unacceptable for the reduction in services at both trusts to continue because it is going to have severe implications on patients. The system will not be able to cope.”

The deficit figures were obtained by Labour from the House of Commons library.

Comments (18)

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1:47pm Wed 18 Jun 14

mdj says...

'He added: “For example we plan to substantially reduce the number of agency staff we use'.
This, and the whole of Mr Cooper's comments, are worrying. They seem to be translatable as:' We only exercise good management and housekeeping when we run out of money and grown-ups outside notice'.

Everyone knows that agency staff cost more; if it's feasible to do without them, why should this seem like a novel idea?
And, if cuts in budget will actually improve patient care, what on earth has been going on up until now?

One key question this article does not answer is: how much of this deficit is attributable to operational management failings, and how much to the insane PFI method of commissioning, which has been likened to buying a house on a credit card?
'He added: “For example we plan to substantially reduce the number of agency staff we use'. This, and the whole of Mr Cooper's comments, are worrying. They seem to be translatable as:' We only exercise good management and housekeeping when we run out of money and grown-ups outside notice'. Everyone knows that agency staff cost more; if it's feasible to do without them, why should this seem like a novel idea? And, if cuts in budget will actually improve patient care, what on earth has been going on up until now? One key question this article does not answer is: how much of this deficit is attributable to operational management failings, and how much to the insane PFI method of commissioning, which has been likened to buying a house on a credit card? mdj
  • Score: 13

4:44pm Wed 18 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

PFI is a significant factor but something that can only be addressed at a national level. There seems to be no stomach for this.

Barts Health has undergone a significant reorganisation over the last 2 years or so. The uncertainty this caused, plus that caused by top down reorganisation we were promised wouldn't happen, relentless bad press, funding cuts and pay cuts made it almost impossible to recruit and retain staff. Agency staff were the only option.

Now, in case you missed it (which is easy since good news doesn't get reported) the NHS has just come top in a review of healthcare across eleven of the wealthiest nations. The US system, which Cameron wants to emulate, came bottom and costs twice as much to run.

The Tories are interested in nothing more than profit. And unless we vote them out you and I will be paying double what we pay now for a useless service. Watch out.
PFI is a significant factor but something that can only be addressed at a national level. There seems to be no stomach for this. Barts Health has undergone a significant reorganisation over the last 2 years or so. The uncertainty this caused, plus that caused by top down reorganisation we were promised wouldn't happen, relentless bad press, funding cuts and pay cuts made it almost impossible to recruit and retain staff. Agency staff were the only option. Now, in case you missed it (which is easy since good news doesn't get reported) the NHS has just come top in a review of healthcare across eleven of the wealthiest nations. The US system, which Cameron wants to emulate, came bottom and costs twice as much to run. The Tories are interested in nothing more than profit. And unless we vote them out you and I will be paying double what we pay now for a useless service. Watch out. stickmanny
  • Score: 3

5:27pm Wed 18 Jun 14

myopinioncounts says...

How much is owed by 'Health Tourists or even genuine visitors who received treatment on the NHS but failed to pay for it?
I have to purchase expensive holiday insurance (due to my existing medical conditions) and even treatment in the EU may be not be free at point of use. We are warned by our Government that we may have to pay and later reclaim. About time the UK did the same.
How much is owed by 'Health Tourists or even genuine visitors who received treatment on the NHS but failed to pay for it? I have to purchase expensive holiday insurance (due to my existing medical conditions) and even treatment in the EU may be not be free at point of use. We are warned by our Government that we may have to pay and later reclaim. About time the UK did the same. myopinioncounts
  • Score: 4

6:23pm Wed 18 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

The Coalition's own analysis states health tourism costs .06% of the NHS budget, or £70m. Visitors? How many people get ill while on holiday? Not worth consideration. Immigrants I hear you say? They pay NI just like you & me.

So balance that against implementing a system to actually collect the money and it will cost more than it saves. There is no question about this.

The NHS is a first class system that politicians of all hues should leave well alone.
The Coalition's own analysis states health tourism costs .06% of the NHS budget, or £70m. Visitors? How many people get ill while on holiday? Not worth consideration. Immigrants I hear you say? They pay NI just like you & me. So balance that against implementing a system to actually collect the money and it will cost more than it saves. There is no question about this. The NHS is a first class system that politicians of all hues should leave well alone. stickmanny
  • Score: 1

6:26pm Wed 18 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

Oh, and on this day that the NHS is found to be the best in the world, the headline to this story is disgraceful.

Shame on you Guardian.
Oh, and on this day that the NHS is found to be the best in the world, the headline to this story is disgraceful. Shame on you Guardian. stickmanny
  • Score: 3

7:01pm Wed 18 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

Stop the health tourists and get out of the EU for a start and cut down on boob jobs for people milking benefits who want to become page three girls.

Also, having recently been to Bart's and seen the pointless building work going on their with hardwood doors and brass finishing and expensive paving in the square is it any wonder that money is seeping out the budgets? One only has to look at Whipps X to try and remember a time when there was no building work going on there. The old Nursing Home has been left standing empty for 20 years, this could have been refurbished to a reasonable standard and let out to low paid staff for a fair rent. It is an utter disgrace the mismanagement especially under the wasteful Labour Party.
Stop the health tourists and get out of the EU for a start and cut down on boob jobs for people milking benefits who want to become page three girls. Also, having recently been to Bart's and seen the pointless building work going on their with hardwood doors and brass finishing and expensive paving in the square is it any wonder that money is seeping out the budgets? One only has to look at Whipps X to try and remember a time when there was no building work going on there. The old Nursing Home has been left standing empty for 20 years, this could have been refurbished to a reasonable standard and let out to low paid staff for a fair rent. It is an utter disgrace the mismanagement especially under the wasteful Labour Party. Villagecranberry
  • Score: 4

7:38pm Wed 18 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

stickmanny wrote:
PFI is a significant factor but something that can only be addressed at a national level. There seems to be no stomach for this.

Barts Health has undergone a significant reorganisation over the last 2 years or so. The uncertainty this caused, plus that caused by top down reorganisation we were promised wouldn't happen, relentless bad press, funding cuts and pay cuts made it almost impossible to recruit and retain staff. Agency staff were the only option.

Now, in case you missed it (which is easy since good news doesn't get reported) the NHS has just come top in a review of healthcare across eleven of the wealthiest nations. The US system, which Cameron wants to emulate, came bottom and costs twice as much to run.

The Tories are interested in nothing more than profit. And unless we vote them out you and I will be paying double what we pay now for a useless service. Watch out.
The NHS as a business would be bankrupt , it would never make a profit with an open door 'I want, I demand ' policy. You do not have a clue what you are on about.
[quote][p][bold]stickmanny[/bold] wrote: PFI is a significant factor but something that can only be addressed at a national level. There seems to be no stomach for this. Barts Health has undergone a significant reorganisation over the last 2 years or so. The uncertainty this caused, plus that caused by top down reorganisation we were promised wouldn't happen, relentless bad press, funding cuts and pay cuts made it almost impossible to recruit and retain staff. Agency staff were the only option. Now, in case you missed it (which is easy since good news doesn't get reported) the NHS has just come top in a review of healthcare across eleven of the wealthiest nations. The US system, which Cameron wants to emulate, came bottom and costs twice as much to run. The Tories are interested in nothing more than profit. And unless we vote them out you and I will be paying double what we pay now for a useless service. Watch out.[/p][/quote]The NHS as a business would be bankrupt , it would never make a profit with an open door 'I want, I demand ' policy. You do not have a clue what you are on about. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -6

7:51pm Wed 18 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

The NHS is not for profit. Anyone who seeks to profit from the misery of others deserves bankruptcy and more.
The NHS is not for profit. Anyone who seeks to profit from the misery of others deserves bankruptcy and more. stickmanny
  • Score: 2

7:53pm Wed 18 Jun 14

mdj says...

...'pay cuts made it almost impossible to recruit and retain staff. Agency staff were the only option.'

I'm with you on almost every point but don't understand this one: are the agency staff paid more as individuals than the in-house employees? Do pay cuts not affect them equally?

It's fair, if a bit capable of misinterpretation, for the WFG to say that funding cuts threaten patient safety.

However much we care for the NHS, and want to maintain it, it needs as constant scrutiny as any other huge organisation.
Not only is there the example of the nurses' blocks at Whipps, empty and neglected for at least 20 years, and surely contributing to the recruitment problem, but the large CHP plant facing James Lane has apparently never functioned since it was built. Somebody should be shot for this, but in public sector organisations, as we have seen with the Council over many years, personal responsibility seems to be an unknown concept.
...'pay cuts made it almost impossible to recruit and retain staff. Agency staff were the only option.' I'm with you on almost every point but don't understand this one: are the agency staff paid more as individuals than the in-house employees? Do pay cuts not affect them equally? It's fair, if a bit capable of misinterpretation, for the WFG to say that funding cuts threaten patient safety. However much we care for the NHS, and want to maintain it, it needs as constant scrutiny as any other huge organisation. Not only is there the example of the nurses' blocks at Whipps, empty and neglected for at least 20 years, and surely contributing to the recruitment problem, but the large CHP plant facing James Lane has apparently never functioned since it was built. Somebody should be shot for this, but in public sector organisations, as we have seen with the Council over many years, personal responsibility seems to be an unknown concept. mdj
  • Score: 6

8:06pm Wed 18 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

Yes agency staff are paid significantly more that in-house staff.

Up until recently there was critical infrastructure between the nurses blocks and the main site, making a sale impractical.

The unused building - a folly from pre-Barts Health days. Many of those responsible were not shot, but did lose their jobs.
Yes agency staff are paid significantly more that in-house staff. Up until recently there was critical infrastructure between the nurses blocks and the main site, making a sale impractical. The unused building - a folly from pre-Barts Health days. Many of those responsible were not shot, but did lose their jobs. stickmanny
  • Score: 1

9:37pm Wed 18 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

stickmanny wrote:
The NHS is not for profit. Anyone who seeks to profit from the misery of others deserves bankruptcy and more.
I agree it should not be for profit but to enable it to survive, it does need investment but also a plug to stop the millions wasted.
[quote][p][bold]stickmanny[/bold] wrote: The NHS is not for profit. Anyone who seeks to profit from the misery of others deserves bankruptcy and more.[/p][/quote]I agree it should not be for profit but to enable it to survive, it does need investment but also a plug to stop the millions wasted. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -6

9:41pm Wed 18 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

stickmanny wrote:
Yes agency staff are paid significantly more that in-house staff.

Up until recently there was critical infrastructure between the nurses blocks and the main site, making a sale impractical.

The unused building - a folly from pre-Barts Health days. Many of those responsible were not shot, but did lose their jobs.
Hardly a folly, it was a nurses home where single nurses resided cheaply and on site, a highly efficient arrangement. If the infrastructure was there it should have been utilised and been of benefit to student nurses on low pay.
[quote][p][bold]stickmanny[/bold] wrote: Yes agency staff are paid significantly more that in-house staff. Up until recently there was critical infrastructure between the nurses blocks and the main site, making a sale impractical. The unused building - a folly from pre-Barts Health days. Many of those responsible were not shot, but did lose their jobs.[/p][/quote]Hardly a folly, it was a nurses home where single nurses resided cheaply and on site, a highly efficient arrangement. If the infrastructure was there it should have been utilised and been of benefit to student nurses on low pay. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -12

9:55pm Wed 18 Jun 14

mdj says...

'Up until recently there was critical infrastructure between the nurses blocks and the main site, making a sale impractical.'

Why sell them, and to whom on such an enclosed site? They could have continued to be nurses' blocks, surely? Whatever renovation they may have needed would have been better economics than leaving them to rot for 20 years, surely? I seem to recall from meetings in the 90s that there were schemes to house hospital IT and admin in them.

Over the 90's I became cynical of the grandiose schemes that managers paraded before the public, only to parade completely different ones a few years later without explanation or apology, always seeking praise, never taking blame.

The CHP plant is hardly a folly, but a scandal that has received too little attention. Smothering these things in-house with a few discreet staff changes doesn't clean the stables. How much money was wasted by this fiasco, I wonder?
'Up until recently there was critical infrastructure between the nurses blocks and the main site, making a sale impractical.' Why sell them, and to whom on such an enclosed site? They could have continued to be nurses' blocks, surely? Whatever renovation they may have needed would have been better economics than leaving them to rot for 20 years, surely? I seem to recall from meetings in the 90s that there were schemes to house hospital IT and admin in them. Over the 90's I became cynical of the grandiose schemes that managers paraded before the public, only to parade completely different ones a few years later without explanation or apology, always seeking praise, never taking blame. The CHP plant is hardly a folly, but a scandal that has received too little attention. Smothering these things in-house with a few discreet staff changes doesn't clean the stables. How much money was wasted by this fiasco, I wonder? mdj
  • Score: 1

6:57am Thu 19 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

mdj you like to live in the past, meanwhile times have changed. Those responsible for these errors have gone and at least one of them has been prosecuted. Rest assured the current management of the WX site are not in the habit of wasting money.
mdj you like to live in the past, meanwhile times have changed. Those responsible for these errors have gone and at least one of them has been prosecuted. Rest assured the current management of the WX site are not in the habit of wasting money. stickmanny
  • Score: 0

12:04pm Thu 19 Jun 14

mdj says...

'mdj you like to live in the past, meanwhile times have changed'

You can only judge people by their record, not their promises.

People in public life who wish to draw our thoughts to the future almost always turn out to be keen to distract our attention from their recent past.

You seem to know more than the rest of us about the back story to this scandal. Can you tell us more? Did you have a role? Who was prosecuted, for example? Were they convicted? That can't be confidential.
Did the hospital get its- or rather, OUR - money back from whichever incompetent was responsible?

It does seem extraordinary that such a scandal received no local coverage, to the best of my awareness

Shuffling a few office chairs without changing the procedures offers no protection against a repeat performance.
'mdj you like to live in the past, meanwhile times have changed' You can only judge people by their record, not their promises. People in public life who wish to draw our thoughts to the future almost always turn out to be keen to distract our attention from their recent past. You seem to know more than the rest of us about the back story to this scandal. Can you tell us more? Did you have a role? Who was prosecuted, for example? Were they convicted? That can't be confidential. Did the hospital get its- or rather, OUR - money back from whichever incompetent was responsible? It does seem extraordinary that such a scandal received no local coverage, to the best of my awareness Shuffling a few office chairs without changing the procedures offers no protection against a repeat performance. mdj
  • Score: 1

5:48pm Thu 19 Jun 14

stickmanny says...

The past, while it may trouble you, isn't relevant here since your suspicion that chairs have been shuffled without procedures being changed is misplaced.

The standard of clinical and financial management at Whipps Cross is an order of magnitude better than it was two years ago. The recent record stands for itself.

And let me say again that our health service is world class. Lets not throw it away.
The past, while it may trouble you, isn't relevant here since your suspicion that chairs have been shuffled without procedures being changed is misplaced. The standard of clinical and financial management at Whipps Cross is an order of magnitude better than it was two years ago. The recent record stands for itself. And let me say again that our health service is world class. Lets not throw it away. stickmanny
  • Score: -2

8:18am Fri 20 Jun 14

Robert19 says...

I'm not sure I agree that it is world class - well the Whipps Cross end from recent experience . There is a lot of demoralisation and consequent poor practice particularly nursing care and a lack of clear information to patients and relatives. Too many privatised staff, agency nurses, dirty wards, inedible food and boiling hot (80 degrees) ward.
I'm not sure I agree that it is world class - well the Whipps Cross end from recent experience . There is a lot of demoralisation and consequent poor practice particularly nursing care and a lack of clear information to patients and relatives. Too many privatised staff, agency nurses, dirty wards, inedible food and boiling hot (80 degrees) ward. Robert19
  • Score: 1

12:32pm Fri 20 Jun 14

mdj says...

Stckmanny, you claim superior knowledge but don't wish to share it to prove your point; why is that? Can you please give us some chapter and verse?

Who was prosecuted, for example, and what was the result?
What financial loss has the NHS (that's us, finally) incurred over this massive procurement fiasco?

If you Google Whipps Cross, up come a series of stories about financial meltdown, abusive staff in court, hygiene failures and performance criticisms.
As local residents we all know there are many success stories too, that aren't so newsworthy; but to support and defend something isn't the same as pretending that it's above all criticism, because it damages the credibility of your case.

As far as performance goes, logic will tell you that we cannot include the future in our assessment!
Stckmanny, you claim superior knowledge but don't wish to share it to prove your point; why is that? Can you please give us some chapter and verse? Who was prosecuted, for example, and what was the result? What financial loss has the NHS (that's us, finally) incurred over this massive procurement fiasco? If you Google Whipps Cross, up come a series of stories about financial meltdown, abusive staff in court, hygiene failures and performance criticisms. As local residents we all know there are many success stories too, that aren't so newsworthy; but to support and defend something isn't the same as pretending that it's above all criticism, because it damages the credibility of your case. As far as performance goes, logic will tell you that we cannot include the future in our assessment! mdj
  • Score: 0

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