MP fears health debt will top £100m

A SUFFOLK MP has claimed that the county's health debt will top £100 million by March - a fifth of the national figure. Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) last night hit back at Richard Spring's claims, arguing it believed the county's health deficits would be down from £64.5 million this year to £39.7 million by April next year.

A SUFFOLK MP has claimed that the county's health debt will top £100 million by March - a fifth of the national figure.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) last night hit back at Richard Spring's claims, arguing it believed the county's health deficits would be down from £64.5 million this year to £39.7 million by April next year.

But if Mr Spring's projections did come true, it would mean Suffolk's health debts would amount to around a fifth of the total NHS debt of £547 million announced by Patricia Hewitt earlier this year.

Even with the lower figures put forward by Suffolk PCT, the county would still currently account for more than a tenth of NHS debt.


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And calls were last night made for the Department of Health to write off Suffolk's health debts - something the department has refused to do it, saying would be unfair to those trusts which had balanced their books.

Describing the debt situation as an “unprecedented financial crisis”, Mr Spring has demanded an urgent meeting over the county's health trust debts with the new chief executive of Suffolk Primary Care Trust, Carole Taylor Brown.

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West Suffolk MP Mr Spring reached the figure by tallying up £35.4 million of debt inherited by the newly created Suffolk PCT a deficit of £14.4 million at West Suffolk Hospital Trust, a shortfall of £48.8 million at Ipswich Hospital Trust and a “usage charge” on the primary care trust debt of £3.5 million.

He said: “We are talking about the potential implosion of health structures in Suffolk. This is a finance driven thing.”

But Mrs Taylor-Brown said: “It is vital that local people are aware of the facts and I look forward to reassuring the MP and other public representatives that the new PCT has a firm plan to eliminate the deficit by 2008.

“The previous PCTs made good progress in 2005/06 by bringing annual spending back into line with the income and creating a surplus that has already reduced the historical debt.

“To be clear about the position, the total Suffolk-wide deficit as at April 2006 was £64.5 million, and the target for the deficit as at April 2007 totals £39.7 million.”

If Mr Spring proves correct in his forecast, the county's health deficits would equate to £152 per person living in Suffolk.

Government spending per head of population this year is just £1,051 per head in west Suffolk but £1,442 per head in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency, according to Department of Health figures released to the EADT.

Mr Spring said: “One of the reasons we are in such a mess is that money has flowed into Labour heartlands. This is one of the main problems and it is now spiralling.”

His claims were denied by a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, who said: “You cannot compare funding allocations provided to PCTs.

“Different health communities have different needs and our funding formula take this into consideration by taking account of population size and age, as well as other factors such as need or geographical differences in cost.

“One of our key priorities is to address health inequalities and this was reflected in the last round of PCT allocations.

“Some areas of the country require additional funding to address higher than average

healthcare needs - such as areas with high rates of smoking, obesity, alcohol intake and sexually transmitted infections.

“Investment in the NHS will have trebled by 2008 following decades of neglect and under-investment, with all NHS organisations receiving above inflation increases in funding, both this year and next."

But David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, said: “Suffolk and other rural counties are being discriminated against by London ministers.

“I want the Government to write off the huge historic debts, which at West Suffolk Hospital amount to more than £10 million. It is crippling.”

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