Health authority debts could hit £38m

THE region's health authority is expecting debts to soar to £38million by the end of March while its current deficit is £20m more than the national average, new figures have revealed.

By Jonathan Barnes

THE region's health authority is expecting debts to soar to £38million by the end of March while its current deficit is £20m more than the national average, new figures have revealed.

The research also showed that the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA) has the third highest overspend in Britain.

The shocking figures were revealed in a survey of England's SHAs carried out by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), which found a total reported deficit of £497 million across the country.

The average SHA had a financial deficit of £18million but Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire reported a debt of £30million, which is expected to rise to rise to £38million by the end of the financial year.

It prompted fears from one of the region's MPs that cuts to patient services were imminent.

Most Read

But the region's SHA denied this, saying it was finding ways to balance the books without any adverse effect on healthcare.

The largest overspend was reported in south west London, at £69.2million, although the SHA predicted it would break even by the end of March.

West Yorkshire was second with a current deficit of £40million, followed by Thames Valley at £34million.

In total it was reported that the NHS was battling to fill a £500million black hole in its finances and would still be £225million in the red by the end of March, despite frantic efforts to balance the books.

The figure is significantly larger than this time last year, with the HSJ blaming the increased costs of new contracts for consultants and GPs, changes to out-of-hours services and pressures to meet targets on waiting lists and A&E treatment for the rise.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said: "These new figures do not come as a surprise to me as a health crisis has been looming in Suffolk over many months.

"They merely confirm my determination to see a full and detailed report by the end of this month on how the SHA is going to fix the mess that they are in, some of which is self-created."

Mr Ruffley, who has joined other MPs from the county in raising the projected £23m deficit of health services across Suffolk in the House of Commons, added: "If this isn't fixed, we are looking at cuts to services and to the quality of healthcare. There are human tragedies lurking."

Last night, a spokesman for the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA said: "The financial challenge we are facing is in common with the NHS in England.

"We are one of the largest SHAs in the country in terms of number of organisations so in a time of pressure it might be expected that our figures might look high, but that is against a backdrop of a yearly budget for the three counties of £2.2bn.

"We have been working with the challenged areas for some time now and plans are in hand to bring the system into financial balance.

"Of course the priority is that patients services should not be cut and there are no plans for this to happen. Much of the emphasis will be on modernising services and producing better quality services in a more cost effective way using models of best practice from other parts of the country."

The HSJ survey included 27 of England's 28 SHAs. South east London was unable to provide figures.