A £3 million investment to recruit more permanent nurses will be a major shot in the arm for Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The hospital was spending £300,000 in November last year on employing agency staff after its nursing levels had dropped.
Now the hospital has seen its bill drop from £75,000 a week in October and November last year to £16,000 currently.
The hospital was placed in special measures by Monitor in October last year after warnings from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that patient care was inadequate, and a report from NHS England that highlighted inadequate nurse staffing levels.
Recruitment will begin shortly and follows the introduction of 71 Portuguese nurses in the autumn.
Outgoing interim chairman David Dean says the additional nurses are not only a good thing for patients but also for the hospital’s finances.
Mr Dean said: “The single biggest item of expenditure which caused this hospital problems in the last financial year is agency spending. By investing in nurses we are hoping to reduce that substantially.”
The hospital’s deficit was projected to be £16 million last year but the unaudited figure expects to shave off £3 million.
Mr Dean believes the hospital lost £2 million in income last year after 600 outpatient operations were cancelled a month.
He said: “It is not acceptable to cancel procedures for two reasons as you could lose patients to other hospitals and people need to be treated.”
Over recent months improvements have been seen at the hospital’s accident and emergency unit, which has had a £2 million extension to help ease pressure at the site.
Mr Dean said has achieved the targets of treating 95 per cent of people in four hours.
He said: “A&E has improved. If you get that right the blockages in the system are removed. Last year there were problems with cancelling elective procedures. If people come to A&E you have to treat them.”
Mr Dean expects the QEH to be among the first wave of hospitals inspected by the CQC in the summer and believes they will see the changes made at the site.
He said the hospital is now consistently meeting the national targets of one nurse to eight patients during the day and one to 11 patients at night.
Mr Dean said: “The CQC when they come to inspect will be able to easily find the areas of improvement.
“It is moving in the right direction.”
In the summer contingency planning teams will begin looking at future services provided by the hospital.
He said: “I come from London where there are 19 hospitals. There is not another hospital for 40 miles here. This hospital will not close nor will A&E. ”
Mr Dean, who has lived in Hunstanton and travelled into work using the Norfolk Green bus service, is due to leave the hospital in July to take up a post at Monitor.
He said: “I will be sad to leave.
“This hospital is held in great affection by local residents and I still get letters from people staying that it is still a great hospital.”
Mr Dean said there have been one or two quality candidates to take over his role.