THE hospital trust is struggling under the weight of a £68.9 million deficit which has been growing since 2016.

Members of a joint health scrutiny committee quizzed finance bosses about the reasons behind Pennine Acute Hospital's NHS Trust's deficit.

Nicky Tamanis, deputy chief finance officer at Northern Care Alliance NHS group, admitted: "Last year was £44 million spent on agency staff, that's a third more expensive than [staff nurses would be]."

When asked about how the trust was allowed to operate in the red she added: "It's not something you're allowed to do but as we have seen it's been harder and harder.

"With clinical demands it's been harder and harder to keep within our budgets because delivery will always come first, in the NHS our doors are always open."

Ms Tamanis was speaking at the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Pennine Acute NHS Trust, held at Bury Town Hall on Tuesday morning.

The committee includes councillors from Bury, Rochdale and Oldham.

Ms Tamanis told councillors: "We are starting to see movement in agency spend, a reducing trajectory. We are having some success with recruiting medical staff - some overseas.

"A big entrance of newly qualified nurses."

She also said that the trust was working to add nursing associates and physician associates to the trust to support the qualified doctors and nurses.

Ms Tamanis explained these members of staff "had not gone through the traditional medical training route and will help us complement medical rotas".

Pennine Acute Hospital's NHS Trust is in the process of being broken up.

North Manchester General Hospital will become part of the Manchester University Foundation Trust.

While the remaining hospitals in Pennine Acute, including Fairfield General Hospital, will be absorbed by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, into what is being called the Northern Care Alliance.

Salford Royal will have to shoulder the burden of the trust's deficit in any plans it makes for the takeover.

n For more see pg 33