BED cuts, reduced hospital stays and a ward closure are among plans being considered by Poole Hospital Trust in a bid to claw back millions.

The trust is forecasting a budget deficit of up to £3m this year and needs to find savings of £7m just to break even by the end of the following financial year.

It a bid to recover its financial position, the hospital is considering a raft of money-saving initiatives – including cutting beds and reducing hospital stays for some patients.

It has already put a freeze on recruitment and upped parking charges for staff and visitors.

Last month it also called in finance experts KPMG to carry out a “high level analysis” and make recommendations.

And less than two weeks ago Poole Hospital’s finance director resigned for personal reasons.

Mike Cracknell, regional organiser for Unison South West, said moral was at currently a “low ebb” within the trust following the changes.

A team briefing by hospital chief executive Sue Sutherland, which circulated last month, painted a dismal picture of the financial situation.

She said it remained “difficult”, adding that while the problem was “mainly due to lack of income, some unacceptable overspending has been uncovered.” There was a particular issue with “premium rate working” – high rates paid to locum and agency doctors in certain specialities.

A spokesman for the hospital said the deficit should be seen in the context of the hospital’s turnover of £183m last year.

She added: “We are now discussing how we might work more efficiently whilst at all times ensuring patient safety and our high quality of care. In so doing we have asked KPMG to take stock of the current financial situation and help us identify actions to improve the situation in the coming financial year.”

She said no decisions had been taken on closing a ward, one of the efficiency proposals, or reducing bed numbers. There were no plans for redundancies.

She added: “No decisions that would result in service changes have been taken – nor will they without staff and public engagement.”

Sue Sutherland said: “The overall aim is to recover the financial situation without compromising the quality of care for our patients and create a secure future for Poole Hospital.”

The financial plight is far removed from previous years. In 2008 to 2009 the hospital generated a budget surplus of £3.4m, and had planned on saving £2.1m this financial year.

Spending squeeze

THE NHS, like the rest of the public sector, is facing a serious spending squeeze.

After a decade of buoyant budgets and increasing investment, the next few years at least will be tough – no matter who wins the general election.

Both the Tories and Labour have promised to protect NHS budgets – indeed it is even one of Labour’s election pledges to protect “frontline investment” in the NHS.

But in last week’s Budget the NHS was told to make savings of £4.35bn within two years.

They form the first part of the £20bn efficiency drive announced by NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson last June as the impact of the recession hit home.

The Daily Telegraph claims to have uncovered a series of internal documents on the planned cuts, which show that health chiefs are considering plans to begin laying off workers, cutting treatments and shutting wards across the country.

In Poole, funding contracts for Poole Hospital have not yet been agreed NHS Bournemouth and Poole, but the Primary Care Trust has indicated that “in line with the NHS operating framework, there is no inflationary uplift.”