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Cost of strikes at Royal Preston Hospital revealed

Posted on - 11th June, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Health, Politics, Preston News, South Ribble News, Uncategorized
Royal Preston Hospital Emergency Department Pic: Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Royal Preston Hospital Emergency Department Pic: Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Industrial action by NHS staff cost the trust that runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals more than £1m in the space of just five days.

A board meeting of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) heard that the organisation was almost £2m shy of achieving its financial plans in April – with more than half of the shortfall estimated to be due to walkouts that had taken place that month, according to chief finance officer Jonathan Wood.

In that four-week period, the lion’s share of strike days involved junior doctors, who stopped work for 96 hours from 11th April. The final day of the month also saw the start of what was a 48-hour stoppage by members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Read more: New Royal Preston Hospital building work ‘won’t start until 2030’

Hospital incomes are driven by the volume of activity – such as operations and procedures – that they carry out. Their capacity for that work is slashed on strike days – with around 200,000 appointments and pre-planned procedures cancelled nationwide during the junior doctors’ walkout in April.

Speaking at the board meeting, LTH chief executive Kevin McGee – who has previously stressed that he supports staff in their right to strike, but expressed his hope for a swift resolution to the ongoing disputes – warned that the trust would lose a “shedload of activity as a consequence of the junior doctors’ strike if that continues through the summer and into the autumn”.

“That will reduce our income flow and it will increase our cost base as well. So everything that we do in terms of our financial plans and financial projections [needs to include the] caveat of strikes…and we need to find mitigation for that,” Mr. McGee said.

British Medical Association (BMA) members are due to down tools again for 72 hours from 14th June in their ongoing dispute with the government over pay. They want a 35 percent increase to compensate for what they claim is a 26 percent reduction in wages in real terms since 2008. The government has previously described that demand as “unreasonable” and offered five percent.

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Non-executive LTH director Tim Watkinson questioned the degree to which the “leftfield” challenge posed by the strikes hit the trust’s financial performance was recognised by those who monitor it at a national level.

Kevin McGee said that the expectation was that the effect should be mitigated to enable financial targets still to be hit.

“We absolutely, therefore, need to…capture both from an activity loss perspective and from a cost-incurred perspective, the impact of the strikes, so at the very least we can quantify it and we’re able to relate that back to our overall financial position…if there is any variance [from the] plan.

“I suspect a lot of this is going to depend on the number of strikes that now take place through the summer and into the winter. If it continues, there will come a point where it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to pull it all back.

“If they find a resolution to it relatively quickly, then we’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pull it back,” Mr. McGee added.

In response to the issues raised in this article, Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: “If, as doctors, we were paid fairly to do our job, we wouldn’t be in the position of taking industrial action.

“But when the government refuses to offer us anything more than a five percent consolidated offer when we’re trying to make up for a real terms pay cut of more than 26 percent, it shows they either do not understand the problem, or do not care. The undervaluing of doctors over the last 15 years is driving doctors away and leading the remaining to question their future in the NHS.”

RCN members are currently being balloted for further strike action after rejecting the government’s offer of a five percent pay increase for this year, plus one-off payments for workers of between £1,655 and £3,789 for last year, on top of £1,400 that they had already been awarded.

Read more: Unannounced visit by Care Quality Commission made to Royal Preston Hospital

Paul Wood, the union’s operational manager in the North West, said in a statement about the impact discussed at the LTH board: “There is only one way to resolve this pay dispute and that is to award the nursing workforce a fair and decent pay rise.

“Not only are they working in extremely challenging conditions due to the chronic staffing crisis, but they are also enduring financial hardship and this financial impact is being felt by NHS organisations up and down the country.

“No-one can afford for the current situation to continue. The government is spending billions of pounds a year on agency staff to plug workforce gaps. [It] can stop the possibility of strikes at any point by getting around the table immediately and talking about pay.”

Some unions representing nursing staff – including Unison and the GMB – have accepted the government offer, while the RCN is amongst others, including Unite, to reject it.

Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines

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