Auditor warns East Lancs hospital chiefs

Burnley General

Burnley General

First published in News Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Health Reporter

A NATIONAL auditor has raised concern about the state of the finances at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals.

The National Audit Commission flagged up weakness in the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust’s (ELHT) arrangements to ‘secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness’ in the year to March.

However, the trust was not among 19 organisations said to be in serious difficulties.

The commission did not provide further details about ELHT but the trust said the finding was made because the trust was in special measures for most of the last financial year.

ELHT was lifted out of special measures last month, after inspectors found that ‘significant improvements’ had been made since January, when interim chief executive Jim Birrell joined the trust.

However, last month the Lancashire Tele-graph reported how board members had also raised concerns about the financial situation for the current year, with bosses left scratching their heads to find ways to save another £16million. They had already saved £30 million over the last two years.

Non-executive director David Wharfe said that the trust’s finances in month one of 2014/15 were a ‘cause for concern’ and ‘if the trend was to continue it would give rise to potential problems’.

Nationally, 19 out of about 100 audited trusts failed their break-even duty and were referred to ministers, a near four-fold increase on last year. Ten trusts received adverse conclusions about their ‘value for money’ arrangements, with lesser concerns raised about a further 27, including East Lanca-shire.

Jonathan Wood, director of finance at ELHT, said: “For 2013/14, the trust’s external auditors provided a qualified value for money conclusion because we were in special measures. The fact that the trust has now been removed from special measures is extremely positive as this will have bearing on the value for money conclusion for 2014/15.”

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