Southend Hospital's £9.8m deficit investigated by watchdog
A £9.8m deficit recorded for 2014/15 at an Essex hospital is to be investigated by a health service watchdog.
Monitor is looking into the financial sustainability of Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust "on behalf of patients", the NHS regulator said.
Finances became a concern when a planned £7.8m deficit grew, for which Monitor could see no recovery plan.
The hospital blamed the larger-than-anticipated deficit on growth in demand and increased staff recruitment.
Hospital chairman Alan Tobias OBE, said: "The overspend is a result of vital investment in services and more staff to ensure high standards of patient care as well as the rise in attendances.
"We welcome this review to clearly demonstrate to Monitor - as well as patients and stakeholders - our future financial plans are both robust and sustainable."
Health at risk
The hospital has pledged to cut the deficit while maintaining "high quality care for local people" and said it was committed to returning to a surplus within three years.
Monitor said its investigation will look into the state of the hospital trust's finances, assess the strength of its financial management and explore ways of improving its sustainability, on behalf of patients across the region.
The investigation will also examine how the trust works with other local health and care organisations to respond to the financial challenges it faces.
Katherine Cawley, regional director at Monitor, said: "People are relying on Southend to provide them with quality healthcare now and in the future, and we are concerned that this may be at risk because of the trust's poor financial performance.
"We have launched this investigation to find out more about the financial situation at the trust and to establish what can be done to improve things."