Warning over hospital's huge debt

By Benedict O'ConnorA “WORRIED” MP has warned cuts may follow if a hospital facing a huge deficit failed to reign in its finances.Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, said he feared the predicted £6.

By Benedict O'Connor

A “WORRIED” MP has warned cuts may follow if a hospital facing a huge deficit failed to reign in its finances.

Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, said he feared the predicted £6.5million overspend at West Suffolk Hospitals Trust could result in cuts to services.

His warning came as the trust put the finishing touches to its bid for foundation status, which would give it greater independence and put it on a firmer financial footing.

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Final details of the bid were agreed at a special meeting of the trust board on Monday. If granted, it would allow the hospital to repay its debts over three years.

But if its bid is unsuccessful, the trust - which runs West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Walnuttree and St Leonard's Hospital in Sudbury - would be required to restructure its finances to repay its debts over a 12 month period.

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A decision on the trust's foundation status is expected by the end of March, but Mr Spring said the predicted deficit was “certainly much greater” than had been expected and warned there could be dire consequences if the application was unsuccessful.

“This is very worrying as there does not seem to be any solution to this. The money has to be paid back and inevitably if this continues, there will be cuts in clinical care,” he claimed.

Mr Spring said he would write to the chief executive of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority about the trust's financial situation.

Trust chief executive Chris Bown said that in the event of the foundation status bid being rejected, there would be “radical change”, but cuts would be avoided were possible.

“We would want to avoid cuts and we would have to look at ways of making savings and providing services and there would be some radical change, but there is radical change throughout the health system nationally. It would not be the end of the world,” he added.

Mr Bown said some contracts may have to be reviewed to see if better value was available, while staff working methods may be subject to change.

He added: “We have always known we are not an easy organisation to determine because of the financial issues we are facing, so that makes us a higher risk than some other organisations.”

Mr Bown said he was optimistic about the trust's chances of getting foundation status following a crunch meeting earlier this month with officials from Monitor, which will determine its bid.


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