Belfast health trust bosses told to cut spending by extra £30 million

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Executive of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and chief medical officer Picture Mal McCann.
Seanin Graham

THE ten most senior directors at the Belfast health trust have been warned to make multi-million pound savings in their budgets and to clamp down on costly locum doctors.

A leaked letter reveals the trust's chief executive Dr Michael McBride, who is also Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer, has ordered "one-to-one accountability meetings" to ensure his managers are not overspending.

The warning comes at a time when the north's hospital waiting lists are among the worst in Europe, with some patients facing year-long delays to see a consultant for the first time.

The Belfast trust is the only one of the five health trusts which has failed to balance its books for 2015/16 and is facing a £13.5 million shortfall - on top of £30m in 'savings targets' it must make for this year.

Sources last night warned of threats to patient services with any future cuts and said there is "no more fat to trim".

But Dr McBride has ordered:

  • workforce numbers to be reviewed
  • overtime, bank and agency staff numbers to be controlled
  • "strong" management of sick and absence leave
  • "Absolute commitment" from all staff to refrain from spending unless funding has been secured
  • Monitoring of staff who "veer off" budget targets

The health chief warns his directors that spending must be controlled and "immediate action" is needed but with "minimal impact on service delivery/performance". The trust has an annual budget of £1.3 billion.

Dr McBride singles out the bill for agency doctors - £48m over five years - as a major factor contributing to its overspend.

"Medical agency usage in particular seems to have risen this year with some indication that this is attributable to both increased usage and rates paid," he writes.

He goes further and criticises the overtime paid to the Trust's own doctors.

"Enhanced rates paid to Trust staff cover vacancies may also be contributing to the overspend."

Dr McBride's letter, dated July 29, gave his most senior managers - which includes the director of A&E, acute services, nursing, social services, human resources and surgery - an August 28 deadline to come back to him with breakeven plans.


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