MP's fears over health service cuts

AN MP has told the East Anglian Daily Times he fears there is "very considerable pain on the way" for patients as the region's health chiefs try to reduce debts of more than £35million.

AN MP has told the East Anglian Daily Times he fears there is "very considerable pain on the way" for patients as the region's health chiefs try to reduce debts of more than £35million.

Richard Spring, Conservative MP for West Suffolk, was speaking after he convened an urgent meeting with bosses from the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA) yesterday.

Mr Spring, along with Ipswich MP Chris Mole and South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo, met the new SHA chief executive Alan Burns, new chairman Keith Pearson and financial director Steve Clarke.

He called the House of Commons meeting in a bid to find out exactly how the SHA, which oversees the region's health trusts, intended to lead the climb out of the huge financial hole.


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But, while bosses promised a recovery plan was being drawn up, Mr Spring said he feels sure that there will need to be cuts to patient services to save money.

"We had a very frank meeting," he said. "The situation is really absolutely at crisis point now.

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"I said to them that it's very clear that the Strategic Health Authority has kept its eye off the ball and we want action.

"They realised how very, very angry we are about what has happened in Suffolk and that we regard the situation as unacceptable."

Mr Spring continued: "They wouldn't give any guarantees about [closure-threatened] Felixstowe Hospital or services or anything.

"They have promised to keep an iron grip on the situation and attempt to turn it around – there are huge debts to pay back and they have to find a way forward.

"All these problems have grown under their feet – this crisis should never have happened because they should have identified that there were problems and stopped it.

"There's going to be very considerable pain on the way and I don't think the people of Suffolk deserve it.

"Patients are going to suffer – they're going to have to reduce the scale of services."

And, despite the promises from the SHA, Mr Spring said he is still not totally convinced that the dire financial situation can be improved in the near future.

According to the SHA, the region's nine health trusts were battling debts totalling £36.8million at the end of the last financial year.

West Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) faced the biggest debt at £9million, while Ipswich PCT owed £8.3m.

The West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust was £7.4m in the red, Suffolk Coastal PCT £4.9m, Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust £4.3m and Central Suffolk PCT £2.9m.

Of yesterday's meeting, a spokesman for the SHA said: "It was a positive meeting and the Chairman of the SHA, Keith Pearson, has agreed to meet with the local MP and the local chair of each NHS organisation over the coming weeks.

"The SHA continues to support and advise the local NHS organisations to address the financial challenges they face across the three counties."

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