A hospital trust continues to face a “whopping” deficit as the extent of its “financial crisis” is revealed.

In its latest monthly board papers, West Herts Hospital Trust said it was on target to deliver within its budgeted £52.7 million deficit for 2018/19 ­— in spite of making huge cost savings.

Watford Labour chairman Mike Jackson was at the board meeting on January 10 and said the “immense challenges and pressures facing our hospital were laid bare”.

The trust, which is responsible for Watford General, St Albans City, and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, is under severe pressure, with calls for a new hospital or modernisation of Watford General Hospital.

The reality of the hospital’s funding situation is shown in some of the latest figures released by the trust.

In the A&E department in November, just 79.6 per cent of patients were seen within in four hours, falling below the target of 95 per cent, while ambulance turnaround time figures in November were also alarming.

The trust leaves itself absolutely no room for error, with targets of 0, but 255 patients were left waiting between 30 and 60 minutes to be seen after being brought to hospital by paramedics, while 100 patients were left waiting more than an hour.

There are six assessment cubicles in the emergency department, which the trust says is helping to reduce handover times.

The trust has an 11.4 per cent vacancy rate (December 2018) while nearly 20 per cent of nurses leave every year. The trust forecasts it will spend £15.2 million on agency staff. In December, it had spent £11.18 million, down £3 million at the same point in December 2017, which the trust says is as a result of “better workforce planning”.

As of December 2018, the trust’s agency pay is 5.4 per cent of the total pay bill.

Mr Jackson said: “The extent of the trust’s financial crisis is massive. It is heading for a whopping £52.8 million deficit in 2018-2019. This is despite huge cost savings. It had to borrow £6.1 million in December just to pay the staff. This is the extent of the underfunding of our hospital by this Tory government.”

He has blamed Watford MP Richard Harrington, who recently secured £11 million of funding for the A&E department in Watford, for “not getting the investment needed”.

Mr Harrington said: “The redevelopment of Watford General Hospital has already started, with just over £40 million invested in our hospital in recent years. A brand new car park will also start being built at the end of this year. Of course there’s a long way to go, and I am currently working with NHS staff and Health Ministers on the next stage of plans.

“But improving health services isn’t just about our hospital, it’s also about investing in primary care, and that’s why I was pleased to secure funding for the expansion of GP opening hours, with all 26 practices in Watford now offering weekend appointments, creating an extra 340 each week.”

Last year, it was revealed Herts Valleys CCG could fine the trust £500,000 a month for missing waiting times but WHHT says it has not been fined yet.

Further details about the future of the trust and its hospitals will be revealed at a public meeting which will be held at the Stanborough Centre in St Albans Road, Watford, from 7pm-9pm on January 29. You must email communications.hvccg@nhs.net to book onto the event