Watchdog asked to probe NHS finances
THE country's senior financial watchdog is being asked to investigate Suffolk's debt-ridden health services.Sir John Bourn , the Auditor General, has been called in by Suffolk West MP Richard Spring after Primary Care Trust officials refused to reveal details of the cost of moving to new offices on the outskirts of Ipswich.
THE country's senior financial watchdog is being asked to investigate Suffolk's debt-ridden health services.
Sir John Bourn , the Auditor General, has been called in by Suffolk West MP Richard Spring after Primary Care Trust officials refused to reveal details of the cost of moving to new offices on the outskirts of Ipswich.
Mr Spring said: “We have such a spiralling level of debt in Suffolk, which now stands at £57million, but we now discover that a new headquarters is being prepared for the health service in the county, with the cost being kept secret from the public. It's the last straw.
“Community hospitals are under threat, beds are being reduced, wards being closed and here are officials grandly moving to new offices. It beggars belief.
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“If a family was in debt, the last thing they would do is incur more costs by moving house.
“The lack of transparency in health costs and debts is worrying. I want the Auditor General to dig beneath the surface of this wretched crisis to give the people of Suffolk the answers they deserve.”
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In his letter to Sir John, Mr Spring says he is appalled at the financial problems which have culminated in the removal of frontline health services, closures of wards and sackings of nurses.
He cites as an example Suffolk West PCT, which inherited a debt of £1.5m when it was created in 2002. Within two years, this had escalated to £12.5m. The deficit at West Suffolk Hospital is £12m and the total NHS deficit in Suffolk is currently estimated at around £57 million.
“A new Suffolk PCT comes into being on October 1. Disgracefully, there has been a refusal to spell out the cost of this latest reorganisation, including the intention, it would appear, to create an entirely new headquarters,” said Mr Spring.
“I would invite you to undertake an audit of the financial management of the NHS in Suffolk over the past ten years so that we can have an understanding of how these deficits have spiralled out of control, and how we can plan to avoid this situation in the years to come.”
A spokesman for Suffolk PCT, which officially comes into existence on Sunday, said Suffolk East PCTs and Suffolk West PCT had reduced their debts significantly while continuing to achieve all of their key patient targets.
“Both PCTs have been subjected to rigorous inspection by external financial experts, who have both endorsed their plans and acknowledged the significant progress they have made,” he said.
“Both PCTs have been very transparent and open about their financial position and the factors that have led to this position in Suffolk. This will be maintained by the new PCT.”
He added that the issue of the trust's headquarters would be discussed at the first public board meeting on Monday.
He said: “The PCT's chief executive designate has made it clear that the details of the costs, and the savings which follow as a result of this proposed move, will be made available in a report which the public will be able to look at once the PCT comes into being.”
A spokesman for the East of England Strategic Health Authority was unavailable for comment last night
n The health trusts in the county have held their final board meetings ahead of a shake up in their structure.
Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), Suffolk West PCT and Waveney PCT boards met separately for the last time yesterday .
The Suffolk East PCTs' meeting, held in Kesgrave, heard the board pay tribute to the staff for their work and the progress over the last year, both financially in “really difficult circumstances” and in terms of service developments.
Chairman of the board, Tony Robinson, added they were ready for the new PCT to “evolve”.