HOSPITAL bosses are being forced to fork out an extra £3.5m for gas and electric in part due to rising energy costs.

The NHS trust that runs Southampton General and Princess Anne hospitals is expecting a £10.3m bill for the year - up from £6.8m - after a hike in costs and a growth in its activity.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has quickly moved to cut the bill, including putting in extra solar panels and smart meters, and doubling the use of low-temperature hot water at its buildings.

It comes as thousands of people across the city have been hit hard by mounting energy bills as the cost of living rises.

As well as the energy bills hike, the hospital has projected a £24.7m deficit for 2022/23.

The figures were revealed in the trust's draft financial plan at a board meeting.

Chief executive David French told the Echo the hospital has a challenging year ahead.

He said there remain continued costs for the hospital due to the pandemic.

But the trust said it is "determined" to ensure that patient services are protected from financial pressures.

Mr French, who heads up the trust with a £1bn turnover caring for 1.9m people across the south, said: "As the trust continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic we face a challenging year ahead due to a culmination of factors such as increasing costs, surges in global energy prices, new models of funding and the continued costs associated with managing with Covid-19.

"This is against the backdrop of continued increased demand across all our services and the pressures on waiting lists.

“However, we are determined to ensure patient services are protected from these financial pressures, and we are therefore anticipating a short-term financial deficit.

"These pressures are being seen across the NHS, and we continue to work on improvements with the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Integrated Care System and NHS England.

We are committed to remaining both financially and environmentally sustainable for the future by developing new initiatives and finding ways to evolve, such as those detailed in our newly launched Green Plan.

“The Trust is always exploring ways to collaborate and innovate and we work tirelessly to maximise funding opportunities and manage any deficit, with the continued delivery of world-class care and outcomes for our patients always being the absolute priority.”

Labour MP for Southampton Test, Alan Whitehead, said the cost of living crisis affects everyone.

He said: "The Conservative government have got no plan to address this crisis either for the NHS or the thousands of residents in Southampton who are struggling with rising energy bills."

But Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen Royston Smith said the "fallout" from the pandemic is "still being felt through all healthcare settings" and has put "significant pressure" on the NHS. 

"The Government has responded by introducing the Health and Social Care Levy which will raise £12bn extra per year," he said. 

"This will be used to clear the backlog in the first instance and then to help with the cost of social care."

Following the Echo publishing this article the hospital confirmed the deficit has dropped to £19.5m.

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