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South Lakes MP Tim Farron has today criticised the University Hospital of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) after a Freedom of Information request revealed that the trust has spent more than £2.7 million on external legal fees over the last nine years. He has called for vital funds to be spent on patients, not on expensive litigation.
In the response to the Freedom of Information request, UHMBT admitted that over the last nine years they have spent £2,723,943 on litigation. The trust’s external legal costs were broken down as follows:
The trust said that the largest single component of legal fees from 2004/05 - 2009/10 were the costs of defending equal value pay claims.
The news comes at a time when the new trust management, UHMBT Chair Sir David Henshaw and Interim Chief Executive Eric Morton, are warning of huge financial problems at the trust.
In a letter titled 'Update on recovery plan and financial challenges', trust bosses laid out the precarious financial situation at the crisis hit trust which worried local health campaigners through their refusal to rule out cuts to services. In their letter to Tim, UHMBT said: ‘We can only spend our money once; therefore we will find savings through getting it right first time, every time.’
The minutes of January’s UHMBT board meeting revealed that the trust's Director of Finance had laid out the precarious financial position facing our local hospitals: "The financial performance in September was worse than planned by £201k, with a deficit of £7k incurred compared to a planned surplus of £194k. The deficit for the year to date is £1,153k which is £799k worse than planned at this stage."
The MP said: "The results of this freedom of information request have really shocked me. This shows how the previous management had their priorities utterly wrong. They were defending expensive and usually futile cases, instead of spending vital public money on treating patients. The trust cannot say on one hand that it needs to make major savings and then admit they have spent nearly £3 million defending lawsuits.
“The trust has really started to turn the corner under the new management team and I want them to ensure that they spend their time doing all they can to support our outstanding doctors and nurses, not haggling in court.”