Hospital bosses quit as debt mounts

Whipps Cross Hospital

Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone

Two chiefs at the NHS trust which runs Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone have announced they are quitting – days after record debt levels were revealed.

Chief executive Peter Morris and chief nurse Kay Riley both confirmed  they were leaving their roles at Barts Health NHS Trust, without elaborating on their reasons for doing so.

Riley has already been replaced on an interim basis by Professor Janice Stevens, who left her role as director of Health Education England to take up the job in East London. Morris will continue as chief executive until his successor is found.

Barts Health became the biggest hospital trust in the country after merging with Whipps Cross three years ago, but now also has the dubious honour of posting the largest deficit, at £93million.

This figure has more than doubled in a single year. The NHS in East London as a whole needs to make savings of £400m over the next five years, but Barts, which runs six hospitals in the region, is likely to have to make up the most.

A Whipps Cross Improvement Programme due to be announced by the end of March could determine where money might be saved, while at the same time upgrading services.

At a recent Barts Health board meeting, a question was raised on whether a “surplus” part of the Whipps Cross site might be sold off for housing. Director of strategy Frances O’Callaghan confirmed that negotiations had begun and a preferred developer had already been found, but could not promise that all money raised from the scheme would be spent on Whipps Cross.

Nevertheless, Whipps Cross remains one of the most likely of the trust’s hospitals to be used for “raising capital”. A large part of the the deficit at Barts Health is attributed to a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal signed long before Whipps Cross merged with the trust.

The £1.2billion deal paid for the redevelopment of both Barts and Royal London hospitals, but repayments over the next 35 years could, by some estimates, eventually reach £6.5bn. Barts says it is currently paying back £30m each year, accounting for a third of its deficit, but this figure will rise with inflation.

Bosses at Whipps Cross are currently awaiting the outcome of a Care Quality Commission inspection on the standards of its care, likely to be published later this spring.