An annual meeting at Hinchingbrooke Hospital heard the trust ended the last financial year £21.17 million in debt, some £11million more than it had planned.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital, in Huntingdon.Hinchingbrooke Hospital, in Huntingdon.

A report setting out the trust’s financial position and detailing the challenges and highlights, also showed that 6,139 bed days were lost due to delayed transfers – so-called bed blockers.

This equates to 17 “medically fit” patients each day not being discharged, usually because there is no follow-up social care in place, and accounts for up to 10 per cent of the hospital’s available acute medical beds.

“The predominant cause of these delays has been attributed to the availability of community care to support timely, safe discharge to home or the community,” the annual report states.

The report covers the accounting period from the end of March 2016 to April 1, 2017, before the trust was acquired by the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Caroline Walker, deputy chief executive and finance director of the North West Anglia NHS Trust, which now runs the hospital, spoke about the huge challenges and also some of the highlights and achievements at the public meeting held on July 13.

She said the planned deficit for this period had been set at £9.8 million, against an income of £115.45 million, but explained that further savings, like April’s merger, were hoped to be realised by the next financial year.

The overspend was, in part, blamed on the “increased reliance on high cost locum agency and medical staff” and “increases in demand and activity”.

According to the annual report: “Although the total locum bank and agency spend for 2016/17 continues to be significantly below the levels experienced in 2015/16, it is substantively ahead of the budget plan that was set.”

Increased demand included higher year-on-year levels of A&E attendances, with increasing numbers of “frail and elderly patients with complex health needs”.

She went on to point out the hospital was “still struggling” with four-hour waiting times in it’s A&E department and said “lack of beds and an inability to discharge people as quickly as we might like,” were factors.

The full year four-hour wait performance for the A&E department was 79.78 per cent against a target of 95 per cent.

The report also states: “Like many other hospitals we also face the challenge of people using our emergency department inappropriately for minor health problems, which has placed an additional strain on our resources.”

Under her heading of highlights, Mrs Walker talked about the appointment of an admiral nurse to support people with dementia, and said Hinchingbrooke was one of only five acute hospital trusts in England to appoint one.

The Huntingdonshire Community Cancer Network (HCCN) was also recognised in the report under the trust’s achievements and the hospital’s volunteers and the chaplaincy team were singled out for praise.

The Huntingdon model, the meeting heard, was initially a two-year pilot scheme funded by NHS England, had been so successful that other trusts were looking to follow.

“HCCN offers information and education to patients and their families at the point of diagnosis. Offering help and advice on managing symptoms and importantly helping patients with cancer to develop the skills to maintain their own health and independence and receiving that support for as long as it is needed,” stated the report.

FACT FILE

• The hospital has 210 acute and general beds.

• During 2016/17 160,805 outpatient appointments were handled.

• 2,229 babies were born

• The emergency department dealt with 45,887 cases, an average of 882 each week.

• 567 nurses and midwifes were employed.