County's health trusts set for merger

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorA MAJOR shake-up of a county's debt-ridden health service looks set to be implemented next year, with five primary care trusts being merged into one.

A MAJOR shake-up of a county's debt-ridden health service looks set to be implemented next year, with five primary care trusts being merged into one.

The changes in Suffolk have been ordered by the Department of Health, which is struggling with the political fall-out from a funding crisis that has engulfed hospitals in the county.

A number of local units are being closed, while acute hospitals are having to axe beds to balance their books.

The primary care trusts have been told to slash management costs by 15%, which means a number of senior posts will be lost if the merger takes place.

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts, said: “One of the significant things we have to do is make a number of management savings as part of this, at the same time as maintaining a local focus. This will result in management redundancies, there is no doubt about that.”

There are currently five primary care trusts in Suffolk - Suffolk West, Waveney, Central Suffolk, Suffolk Coastal and Ipswich.

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Central Suffolk, Suffolk Coastal and Ipswich Primary Care Trusts currently have one management system, but the new guidance will see all five trusts link up.

A letter from Nigel Crisp, NHS chief executive, which has been sent to all primary care trust bosses in England, said the new changes were designed to make sure all NHS organisations were able to operate even more effectively in the future.

“The emphasis is on improving the commissioning of services alongside improvements in health and improvements in service delivery,” he said.

But John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “The last thing the NHS needs at the moment is another reorganisation. It needs to get rid of the excess bureaucrats and direct the money where it should be.

“In my view this is another attempt to divert attention by reorganisation from the reality of the clinical system, which is that the NHS is breaking down in Suffolk. I say tie it (the system) round their necks and make them get it right.”

Mr Gummer said if there was to be only one primary care trust in Suffolk, it would be impractical as the needs of a town like Sudbury were totally different from that of Aldeburgh.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, added: “I walk in dread of what this reorganisation will bring.

“I want to be positive, but I'm afraid I believe the strategic health authority and their masters in their ivory towers in Whitehall have let Suffolk down badly.

“I have no confidence at all that another reorganisation will protect the interests of patients.”

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