Bucks health trust which is £10m in the red pays £44m a year in PFI contracts – and one of them lasts until 2068

The health trust which runs hospitals in Bucks has warned it will finish the financial year £10m in the red – but bosses claim they have a ‘robust’ plan to improve finances.

Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust said its deficit will amount to about 2.7 per cent of its annual turnover of £370m.

In a report presented to the trust’s board, it blamed the overspend on several factors.

These included £5.2m investment in improving services, which has resulted in a ‘better patient experience’ but which was ‘not previously accounted for’.

Spending on agency staff to fill vacancies and cover holidays and sickness has also increased by £500,000 in just a year, and now stands at £18.2m.

And two Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts, in place since 1998 and 2003, which were set up to improve Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe hospitals, cost the trust an eye-watering £44m a year. The PFI contracts are for 32 and 63 years respectively.

Officially each health trust in the country has a duty to break even – but bosses in Bucks says ‘most’ trusts are having the same problems.

The trust says it has ‘very clear achievable plans in place to tackle our deficit’.

These include tighter controls on agency spending, setting ‘challenging, but realistic’ budgets and ‘delivering cost improvement’ programmes.

A trust spokesman said: “There are a number of factors influencing the underlying financial position in the NHS and nationally there is a focus to help local systems deliver a more sustainable, transformed health service and improve the quality of care, wellbeing and NHS finances over the next five years.

“We take this matter very seriously and are working closely with our local partners to tackle these challenges together and continue to develop and improve services for our local communities.

“Our overriding focus is to provide safe and compassionate care to patients and to improve the health and wellbeing of the people in our community.”

The PFI payments include the cost of facilities management, including cleaning, catering and provision of porters along with the repayments on the actual rebuilding costs. They have been evaluated by the Department of Health as affordable.

The spokesman added: “However, the repayments are subject to interest charges which can be higher than current rates.

“We have worked closely with our PFI partners to continually drive down costs, especially in these challenging economic times.”