Queen Alexandra Hospital cuts 700 jobs and shuts wards

image captionThe trust expects to make £29m of savings this financial year

A £256m Hampshire hospital which opened 18 months ago has cut 700 jobs and shut wards, the BBC has learned.

The Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham was rebuilt using private finance and opened in July 2009.

The hospital, run by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, confirmed the job losses and the closure of 100 beds.

Finance director Robert Toole admitted the situation was "challenging" but said the hospital was on course to save £29m this financial year.

However the hospital was still likely to be facing a deficit of about £6m in an overall budget of £430m even with the savings.

It recently approached Southampton General Hospital over a possible merger but was turned down.

Finance director Mr Toole said it was a common situation across the NHS.

He added: "It is particularly more challenging because we have moved into the new hospital - clearly we have invested into this facility and this has had a knock-on effect in terms of our finances."

Like all hospitals, it aims to become a foundation trust but needs to balance its books first.

image captionMrs Woolgar was placed in a discharge ward in the days before she died

Since it opened 18 months ago, about 100 of the hospital's 1,200 beds have been closed, leaving three wards empty, including its G5 unit, which offered care to terminally ill patients aged over 65.

One patient, Hilda Woolgar, died at the hospital in January after suffering a stroke. Her family say she was placed in a discharge ward for the last four days of her life.

Her daughter, Pamela Mulrooney, said: "She passed away with no dignity - I'm just glad she knew nothing about it because it was upsetting. I felt she had been put in there to die, out of the way."

A trust spokesman said: "Patient care and experience are and will always remain the highest priorities for the trust."

She added that the circumstances of Mrs Woolgar's care were being "fully investigated".

Reduced payments

The 700 job cuts, mostly clerical and admin roles, have been achieved by not replacing staff who left over the past 18 months. The hospital has about 6,200 members of staff.

BBC South Health Correspondent David Fenton has been shown documents revealing the level of concern inside the trust.

In one letter, written in January, a board member said they had considered joining forces with Southampton General Hospital 22 miles away, but the proposal was turned down.

It read: "We even proposed to them a joint examination of the clinical and financial benefits of a merger but this was not taken up."

An all-party group of MPs met earlier to discuss renegotiating the hospital's private finance deal, which currently costs the trust £43m a year.

Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) are a way of funding public projects with private capital, with the trust repaying the debt for years to come. The PFI at Queen Alexandra is run by the Hospital Company, which is made up of Carillion and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt was among the group of MPs who met National Audit Office staff at Westminster.

She said: "The hospital and the private company are the people that have to do the renegotiations. What we have been able to do over the last six months is create a climate where they can actually do that.

"We need to incentivise the company to come to the negotiation table by creating political pressure and incentives for them to do that."

The trust also met with the Strategic Health Authority and the Primary Care Trust to discuss the hospital's future as a foundation trust.

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