Debt-laden Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust paid a financial consultant £100,000 for three months’ work before it was placed in special measures because of a massive deficit.
The advisor was hired as part of an NHS Improvement initiative, which targeted 16 ailing parts of the health service in order to save £50million within a year. More than 80 trusts had volunteered for the programme.
The trust (MTW) hired Jane Hurst, a partner and ‘restructuring professional’ at the audit company KPMG who specialises in healthcare.
The Improvement Director’s salary was reportedly part of an overall package of £600,000, but this arrangement was immediately scrapped when MTW was placed in special financial measures in July over a £23.4million shortfall in its budget.
Hearts and minds
The trust’s board meeting for June revealed a 43 per cent increase in expenditure on locums – as well as agency staff year on year – along with the costs incurred for appointing new medical staff.
Other rises in spending were ascribed to a ‘significant problem area’ in trauma and orthopaedics – which had led to ‘hearts and minds issues’ for staff in the day care unit – and the trust taking over the contract for High Weald maternity services.
NHS Improvement is an umbrella body formed in April which brought together existing monitoring groups to ensure financial sustainability ‘by holding providers to account and, where necessary, intervening’.
It is understood that the consultant and NHS Improvement were unable to agree on a figure which would bring the deficit under control, resulting in MTW becoming one of the first five trusts in England to be put in special measures.
The national body appointed Simon Worthington as a financial improvement director last month. He is due to deliver his own savings plan within a short time frame.
The trust has repeatedly tried to bring in experts at high cost to bring its budget under control. Interim finance director Colin Gentle was paid £240,000 for 11 months’ work in 2010-12.
And Ian Miller, another interim appointment, received £250,000 for six months in 2014 to tackle a £10million deficit at MTW.