PATIENTS losing faith in Basildon Hospital and opting to go elsewhere for treatment has partly caused a NHS £43million overspend.

It has emerged that part of the reason for NHS South West Essex’s colossal cash woes are because more patients last year refused treatment at Basildon, due to concerns over the standard of treatment they would receive.

Instead, they took advantage of their right to opt to go to Southend, or in many cases London hospitals, for procedures, which cost the primary care trust extra money.

The revelation came up at the first of a series of public meetings being hosted by the PCT in a bid to explain why the trust overspent by £43million last year and how it intends to put it right through its turnaround plan.

To break even by the start of the new financial year in April, the PCT must save £37.1 million.

It has already saved about 78 per cent of the total, by cutting a swathe of treatments, services and making 220 redundancies.

However, it will also need to save around £60million over the coming year to balance the books for years to come.

Among the members of the public at the meeting was Wickford Park councillor Chris Jackman, who launched a tirade against the trust for mismanaging the budget. He called for senior figures at the PCT to be sacked. Mr Jacman said Basildon Council tried to warn the PCT back in 2008 it was spending too much and to “get a grip”, but was ignored.

He told the meeting: “A large part of the overspending is due to loss of confidence in Basildon Hospital, with patients opting to go to Southend instead.”

Barbara Stuttle, director of quality and nursing for the trust, admitted this was a reason, as under Government rules a trust has to pay a penalty tariff if a patient wants to go to a hospital further away.

Mrs Stuttle said: “Yes, that was a factor in the sense that a lot people opted to go to Southend instead of Basildon, and in particular London hospitals, which has a much higher tariff. But Basildon is improving. Let’s put that straight.”

Addressing the trust’s serious financial situation Mrs Stuttle urged the public to focus on what is happening now at the trust.

She said: “I accept what went wrong, but believe we are trying to put it right. We overspent on treating too many people. We did not spend this money on a trip to the Bahamas at the taxpayers’ expense.”