Hospital looks for help to survive

NHS North Somerset has been pumping �5million per year into Weston General Hospital to cover a funding shortfall, it has been revealed.

The news come after North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox, in last week’s Times, questioned how the shortfall of funding for Weston’s hospital has impacted on the healthcare services being provided for those in the north of the district.

He has raised the question with health bosses following the cancellation of the new Clevedon hospital project, which representatives of the CCG have said would be unaffordable.

He said: “I suspect we are suffering as a health area as a whole because of the mismanagement and financial viability of Weston hospital.”

Patients from the north of the district will continue to be referred to Weston General Hospital when needed, despite it needing a partner to secure its long-term future.

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Weston Area Health Trust has decided an Integrated Care Organisation (ICO) partnership with North Somerset Council’s social services and other health providers is not financially viable.

Its chief executive Peter Colclough said NHS North Somerset primary care trust (PCT) had helped cover an annual �5million shortfall at the underfunded hospital trust in recent years.

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But with the PCT being disbanded in favour of a clinical commissioning group (CCG) from next April, the shortfall will no longer be covered.

The change has forced the hospital trust to look for an outside partner to help secure its long-term future beyond 2014, instead of pooling all North Somerset health services together.

Hospitals are required by law to become a foundation trust – with greater independence from the Department of Health – or enter a partnership with a larger one by April 2014.

It had been hoped that the ICO would be eligible for foundation trust status itself, but Mr Colclough said it was not going to be financially possible.

He said: “The North Somerset health community has a long history of financial difficulty and whilst our work has shown it is possible to narrow the financial gap, it has not been possible to eliminate it.”

Dr Mary Backhouse, chief clinical officer designate for the forthcoming CCG, said the move has been taken to try to ensure as many health services remain in North Somerset as possible.

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