A PENALTY of £130,000 has been imposed after 130 ambulances were forced to wait for more than an hour outside Colchester General Hospital in just three months.

The £1,000-a-time levy, coupled with further fines issued after Colchester Hospitals Trust missed a series of treatment targets, has contributed to a predicted £15.9 million budget deficit.

Finance chiefs have responded by initiating a series of savings, including freezing recruitment for all non-medical staff.

Chief operating officer Evelyn Barker said the gap was down to a combination of missed targets and greater spending on frontline staff following the Keogh and CQC reviews, which have seen the trust placed in special measures.

See Monday's Gazette for the full story