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Western Trust’s financial recovery plan ‘paused’ during COVID-19 pandemic

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A financial recovery plan announced by the Western Trust earlier this year has been ‘set to one side’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has emerged.

At the beginning of this year the Derry News revealed that the Trust had implemented a three-year ‘financial recovery plan’ to address a £39m deficit. 

Finance Director Neil Guckian said the Western Trust was the only Trust in Northern Ireland with such measures in place.

By February of this year the overall deficit had been reduced to around £30m.

Of that total, £20m is a direct consequence of cuts over the past six years and the remaining ten is due to investment in additional staff because of safety concerns or service growth, and the extra cost of delivering existing services such as locums.

A £19m financial and efficiency recovery plan had been agreed for 2020/21 which would leave around £11m to save in the final year, 2021/22.

Cost saving areas identified included the recruitment of locum or temporary doctors which soared to £27m in 2017/18.

Speaking at a media briefing on June 12, Western Trust Chief Executive Dr Anne Kilgallen said that due to the pandemic the financial recovery plan has been ‘put to one side’.

“The priority has been to respond to COVID and take whatever steps we needed to take, whether that involved staffing, PPE and other aspects of services.

“So essentially we have paused our recovery programme because of the COVID pandemic.

“That doesn’t mean that we are less attentive to running the business, we run the business of our organisation as efficiently and effectively as we can.

“But the actual detail of the recovery plan has been set to one side during this period.”

The cost of running health services during the pandemic has risen dramatically with the rise in PPE usage and need for enhanced cleaning schedules in all health and social care settings.

In April, Mr Guckian said the Trust would normally use 2,000 fluid resistant surgical masks per day.

That increased to 5,000 a day at the beginning of the pandemic, then 8,000 and at the height of the pandemic to 50,000-70,000 masks in a single week.

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