Ten weeks to solve NHS crisis

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorHEATH bosses in Suffolk have been given 10 weeks to reverse budgetary failures that have plunged hospital and primary care trusts into a £23million deficit, or the Government will be asked to intervene.

By Graham Dines

Political Editor

HEATH bosses in Suffolk have been given 10 weeks to reverse budgetary failures that have plunged hospital and primary care trusts into a £23million deficit, or the Government will be asked to intervene.

At a crisis meeting at the House of Commons last night, four of the county's MPs told the Norfolk Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority they were “deeply concerned” at the crisis, which they believed could affect patient care.


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The MPs demanded a plan of action should be implemented to deal with the crisis by the end of January and warned that unless there were signs that the deficit was being brought down, they would appeal directly for Health Secretary Dr John Reid to sort the problem out.

Speaking after the meeting, the MPs said they were “sceptical” the financial situation could be improved and feared that it could reach £55m before the end of the next financial year.

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MPs Richard Spring (Suffolk West), David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds), Tim Yeo (Suffolk South) and Sir Michael Lord (Suffolk Central and Ipswich North) met Stewart Francis, health authority chairman, and its chief executive, Peter Houghton, after details of the overspending were released.

Deficits built up in the county are: Suffolk West Primary Care Trust £5.2m, West Suffolk Hospitals Trust £4.6m, Ipswich Primary Care Trust £5.4m, Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust £1.8m, Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust £5.m, and Ipswich Hospital Trust £1.4m.

The deficit includes £20m brought forward from the previous financial year.

“The health authority admitted that the NHS in Suffolk was dysfunctional and was suffering from budgetary failures,” said Mr Spring.

“That admission is of little comfort to patients worried that the county is not getting its fair share of support.

“The health authority has the statutory responsibility to ensure that the trusts and hospitals in Suffolk are not in deficit and we have asked officials to come back to us by the of January with a proper, transparent plan to put the financial situation right.”

Mr Ruffley said if the MPs were not convinced that the situation could be reversed, then Dr Reid would be asked to use his powers to do it for them.

“We've had promises before, when the deficit was smaller, that the financial problems would be resolved, but all those promises have been broken,” he added.

Mr Yeo, who is concerned the Walnutree Hospital in Sudbury will be closed to reduce the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust deficit, said: “We have told the health authority that it is accountable for what has gone on in Suffolk and they must now put up.”

In a letter to Mr Spring, released before the meeting, Mr Houghton said: “The health authority is continuing to work closely with trusts in Suffolk to ensure that financial recovery plans are robust and effective and that key improvements in access and quality continue to be delivered.

“No service reductions are planned as a result of the financial pressures, as the NHS has still to achieve important service targets. However, we do need to change the way in which services are delivered.”

graham.dines@eadt.co.uk

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