Extra health body could cost 'up to £1m'

UP to £1m will be diverted from patient care to pay for bureaucrats if Waveney Primary Care Trust is allowed to merge with its counterpart in Great Yarmouth instead of joining a single Suffolk organisation.

By Graham Dines

UP to £1m will be diverted from patient care to pay for bureaucrats if Waveney Primary Care Trust is allowed to merge with its counterpart in Great Yarmouth instead of joining a single Suffolk organisation.

The figure has emerged in a report to be presented to a special meeting of Suffolk County Council next week.

The current network of PCTs in Suffolk – the organisations which run the likes of GP surgeries, dentists and pharmacies – is being reviewed.


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The Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority's favoured option is to merge all PCTs in Suffolk – Suffolk Central, Coastal, Ipswich, Suffolk West and Waveney – into one unit.

Waveney PCT is against the idea, fearing it will be saddled with the huge debts being experienced by its Suffolk counterparts. Instead, it wants to merge with Great Yarmouth PCT in a cross-border partnership.

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But the county council report warns of fragmented services and the need to appoint additional high salaried staff to service two PCTs instead of just one body. Councillors will discuss the alternatives next week,

In a report to the county council, three of the authority's senior directors point to the problems of a “relatively small” PCT straddling a county boundary.

Graham Gatehouse, director of adult care and community services, Lee Howell (public protection) and Rosalind Turner (children and young people) say: “Few, if any, county councils would willingly swap a relationship with five PCTs, as we have now, for a relationship with two PCTs, where one is across-county border organisation.

“This would result in the priorities of Suffolk and Norfolk county councils having to be considered alongside each other within one relatively small PCT. This would inevitably make service improvements more difficult to achieve.”

The result would mean that services would become fragmented rather than improved and the cost to council tax payers in Suffolk in how to liaise with two PCTs rather than one single county body would be £250,000,

The SHA has calculated that the fixed managements costs for an additional PCT in Suffolk would be £500,000, to be paid for from existing overstretched NHS budgets.

“It is therefore clear that, from a financial perspective, the creation of two PCTs in Suffolk will place a burden on the taxpayer, with funding channelled into administration rather than front line services,” say the county council directors.

“The benefits of two PCTs will have to be weighted up against additional administrative costs well in excess of £750,000 a year.”

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said no recommendation was being put to next week's meeting. The views of all councillors taking part in the meeting would be forwarded to the SHA.

“Contrast this to the way Norfolk dealt with the consultation – the cabinet voted for a single PCT for its county, including Great Yarmouth, and did not allow any discussion by the full council.”

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