Hospitals and other health trusts across the region have been told the government will pay to write off their debts as part of its commitment to support them during the struggle to treat the coronavirus crisis.

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has written to all MPs with constituencies in England to let them know that the government will be writing off £13.4bn of hospital trust debt, a figure which includes £46,495,000 of debt from West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Hancock said: “I’m delighted to have been able to take this action which will benefit West Suffolk by £46m, ensuring they can continue to provide world-class care without the burden of legacy debt. Valuable cash that would otherwise have been needed to repay past liabilities will be freed up to maintain vital services. This is needed now more than ever as we take measures to tackle coronavirus.”

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The East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) which runs Ipswich Hospital and the Colchester General Hospital will have a total of almost £193m debt written off to put it in a stronger position to deal with the current crisis and to face the future.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt welcomed the write-off: “This is good news for Ipswich Hospital. Writing off just under £200 million of debt at the Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals Trust is a major move by the Government and a welcome and appropriate move at a time when the challenges our Hospital faces are unprecedented.

“The work that our brilliant NHS staff are carrying out at Ipswich Hospital has been nothing short of heroic over the past few weeks and I hope that this move by the Government will enable to leadership of the Hospital to focus solely the only thing that matters right now and that’s saving lives. These are not normal times and its welcome that the Government have acknowledged this by writing off the debt.”

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Announcing the write-off Mr Hancock said: “As we tackle this crisis, nobody in our health service should be distracted by their hospital’s past finances.

“The £13.4 billion debt write off will wipe the slate clean and allow NHS hospitals to plan for the future and invest in vital services.

“I remain committed to providing the NHS with whatever it needs to tackle coronavirus, and the changes to the funding model will give the NHS immediate financial certainty to plan and deliver their emergency response.”

The department said the decision to write off the debts would mean hospitals would get all the necessary funding to carry out their emergency response, despite many hospitals cancelling or limiting their usual services such as elective surgery or walk-in clinics due to the virus.

The Suffolk and Norfolk Foundation Trust will have capital debts of nearly £5m written off and the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, which deals with patients from north east Suffolk, will have debts of £7.2m written off.