Finance experts target health trusts

FINANCIAL trouble-shooters are being sent into a debt-ridden Suffolk hospital and three of the county's health trusts, it has emerged.Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has ordered so-called “turnaround teams” to look at all NHS organisations which are more than £5million in the red.

FINANCIAL trouble-shooters are being sent into a debt-ridden Suffolk hospital and three of the county's health trusts, it has emerged.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has ordered so-called “turnaround teams” to look at all NHS organisations which are more than £5million in the red.

West Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT), West Suffolk Hospital Trust at Bury St Edmunds and the Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal elements of the Suffolk East PCTs are among them.

But the move has sparked a mixed reaction in Suffolk, with patients hopeful it could make Whitehall understand that its deadlines to clear debts are “impossible” but equally worried it could lead to further cuts being imposed.


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The turnaround teams, made up of finance specialists from the NHS and private sector experts, will investigate how the trusts are being run and go through their accounts.

The health economy in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire is in debt to the tune of around £60m.

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NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp said: “New teams of financial and management experts will help the NHS identify opportunities to deliver services with greater cost-effectiveness. They will help the local NHS improve patient care and achieve financial balance.”

A Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority spokeswoman, said: “The SHA is learning further details about the financial turnaround teams and their work with our local organisations.

Work is expected to start almost immediately with the teams and we welcome their support.”

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Suffolk East PCTs, said yesterday : “Suffolk East PCTs always welcome additional help with our already improving financial performance.

“We have learnt that we should expect help from a new initiative launched by the Department of Health last week.”

Ms Rowsell said ultimately the PCTs' board would have to agree at its public meeting to implement anything the teams suggest.

However, she added only proposals not included in the current consultations and affecting services or the public would need to go out to consultation before the board takes a decision. Any recommendations on the way the PCT is run, for example buying one commodity instead of another, would not need to be run past the public.

A spokesperson for West Suffolk Hospital Trust, which has reported a £6.3m shortfall this year, said: “We expect the turnaround team to be supporting our trust along with many others across England.

“This in no way reflects on the excellent progress we have made to date in reducing expenditure at West Suffolk Hospital.”

A spokesperson for Suffolk West PCT said: “The PCT believes it has done everything that it can to find savings without impacting on patient care. We have left no stone unturned. We welcome the help of turnaround teams and we are co-operating with them fully.”

Jenny Brabazon, spokeswoman for Suffolk Coastal's Patient Public Involvement forum, said she would be “watching with trepidation” how the initiative will unfold, and said she was concerned it could lead to decisions being “rushed and imposed”.

“The first thing they are going to discover is that there is no hope at all of balancing the books and hitting the targets in the timescale that's been set,” she said.

“If someone from the Department of Health comes in and comes to that conclusion they might be more inclined to accept that as a reality, rather than hearing it from the communities.

“However, if these people are number crunchers, rather than people who are thinking of the end users of the services, there is always a worry.”

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