Suffolk's £11m health debt

By Jenni DixonSIX trusts responsible for providing health services in Suffolk are facing a combined debt of more than £11million, a new report has shown.

By Jenni Dixon

SIX trusts responsible for providing health services in Suffolk are facing a combined debt of more than £11million, a new report has shown.

The Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority revealed Ipswich Hospital Trust had by the end of December 2003 a debt of £2million, down £400,000 on the previous three months, while Ipswich Primary Care Trust had a debt of more than £2.8m, up £625,000.

Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust had a debt of £1.7m (unchanged), Suffolk West Primary Care Trust had a debt of £1.1m (down £96,000), Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust had a debt of £1m (unchanged) and Waveney Primary Care Trust had a debt of almost £270,000 (down £236,000).


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But West Suffolk Hospitals Trust had reached a break-even position by clearing the £1.4m debt it had at the end of September 2003.

However, the report warned the financial position among the trusts continued to be "of greatest concern" with a predicted debt of more than £11m by the end of March.

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"Ongoing discussions with chairs and chief executives have yet to reach agreement on detailed recovery plans and NHS bodies in Suffolk now report an expected year-end deficit in excess of £11million. Work continues to ensure any deficits are kept to an absolute minimum this year," it added.

The health authority said each NHS body must achieve at least a break-even position in each financial year or face its performance ratings being adversely affected.

It said the overspend was due to a number of factors, including "slippage" in primary care trusts' saving plans and a rise in emergency care.

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospitals Trust and Waveney and Suffolk West Primary Care Trusts said he thought the healthcare providers could balance their books by the end of March.

"Both Primary Care Trusts have in place a cost improvement programme which aims to address the deficit by the end of the financial year," he added.

"West Suffolk Hospital is applying to become a foundation trust and one of the requirements for that is that it must have balanced finances by the end of the financial year. That is what it intends to do."

David Ruffley, the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said: "Despite all extra money promised in Suffolk, these deficits have carried on year after year.

"That is not the fault of the primary care trust managers who have worked hard to cut out waste and inefficiency. We have to look at the extra money which is promised to reach frontline services in Suffolk and it doesn't look like it is reaching them."

jenni.dixon@eadt.co.uk

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