FINANCE chiefs at North Yorkshire’s cash-strapped health trust say they are expecting to be £8 million in the red by the end of the financial year in April.

The latest performance figures released by NHS North Yorkshire and York – the body that commissions and funds health services in the county – show the trust has already sunk £4 million into debt this year.

An action plan has been drawn up to reduce expenditure – but health bosses are adamant that the quality of patient care will not be affected by any savings.

Jayne Brown, chief executive of NHS North Yorkshire and York, said an £8 million deficit was “not an acceptable position”, but stressed that it represented less than one per cent of the trust’s total budget. She said the main reason for the overspend was that the trust’s hospitals had been “extraordinarily busy” – particularly during the recent Arctic conditions, when the number of slips, trips and falls rocketed.

She said: “The hospitals have dealt with many more patients than we could have predicted when we were drawing up spending plans.

“We have also seen escalating costs of secure forensic mental health services, continuing care and prescribing.”

She said NHS North Yorkshire and York was looking at ways to make savings while still offering excellent health care services.

One such initiative is a new scheme called Telehealthcare, which aims to save money by cutting the number of hospital admissions required by patients with long-term conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure.

Under the scheme, 100 electronic units will be installed in people’s homes over the next 12 months, each with devices to take readings such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, weight and temperature.

This information will then be automatically sent to a monitoring centre, where any problems or abnormalities in a patient’s condition can be identified and treated at an early stage – before a hospital admission is required.

Coun James Alexander, chair of York’s health overview and scrutiny committee, said he was keen to make sure the overspend did not have an adverse impact on patient care.

He said: “Most patients tell me their personal experience of the NHS is excellent medical care, but I am already planning to meet some patients on Thursday who say that savings are reducing the medical care they receive.”