Anger over county's healthcare funding

FUNDING for healthcare in Suffolk will not increase at the same rate as other counties in East Anglia – even though it is struggling with more than £30million of debt.

FUNDING for healthcare in Suffolk will not increase at the same rate as other counties in East Anglia - even though it is struggling with more than £30million of debt.

The Department of Health yesterday announced how much money it would allocate to Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England.

While Suffolk was given a 9.2% increase in funding for 2006/7- meeting the national average - its neighbouring counties will receive 1% more.

In Cambridgeshire funding will increase by 10.2% (£77.5M), taking its allocation up to £835.3M. Norfolk has been given a 10.3% (£90.3M) boost for next year, raising its expenditure to £965.9M.

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However, Suffolk is lagging behind the other counties in the Strategic Health Authority (SHA), with its expenditure rising by only £68.7M to £819M.

It is also battling with mounting debts, with the three PCTs in the east - Central Suffolk, Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal - being in the red by £24M and Suffolk West having a predicted year-end deficit of £9.6M.

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Richard Spring, MP for west Suffolk, said: "It's just absolutely symptomatic of what happens in Suffolk. The budgetary situation with the PCTs and the SHA in Suffolk is at crisis point. We are talking about debts of more than £32M.

"For years in Suffolk we have had the lowest funding increases per capita. Once again Suffolk is getting less than other places.

"Suffolk at this point needs more than other places to catch up with the deficit problem that is being created.

"Suffolk pays vastly higher council tax than the national average and has the lowest per capita spending on the public sector. It is unfair and exasperating for me as an MP."

Paul Kemp, director of finance at the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, welcomed the increased funding but warned it would need to be prudently spent.

He said: "While this new allocation is certainly good news, the new money will need to be invested wisely to secure sustainable benefits.

"As well as investing in new services, the reviews of existing services will need to continue to ensure they are appropriate to the needs of local people.

"There will still need to be much more emphasis on preventative health care, and the modernisation of services.

"Having said that, the new allocation means the NHS can plan with more confidence over the next three years."

The Department of Health also announced the following year's allocation, with the national average increase being 9.4%. Suffolk's allocation will rise by 10.6% to £905.6M in 2007/8, Norfolk's will climb by 11.1% and Cambridgeshire's will go up by 10.7%.

The new funding allocation will take total spending in health services across the three counties to £3.1 billion by 2007/8.

Suffolk West PCT will see its funding increase by 9.2% in 2006/7 and 11.1% the following year.

Aidan Dunn, the PCT's director of finance, said the funding allocation was "very good news".

"However it does not resolve all of the PCT's financial problems," he added. "Some of the money will go towards paying back the deficit.

"Some will go on drugs and other clinical costs that rise each year. The rest of the money will be used to reduce waiting times, as outlined in the NHS improvement plan."

Central Suffolk PCT's cash will rise by 9.2% in 2006/7 followed by 9.9% the next year. Ipswich's will go up by 9.1% and then 9.5% and Suffolk Coastal's funding will rise by 9.1% and then 10.1% in 2007/8.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the three east Suffolk PCTs, said: " We will be spending the next few days carefully looking at what it actually means for us. Our financial challenges are very well known but all money is exceptionally welcome."

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