You're on your own - Hewitt

THE Government has refused to bail out Suffolk's crisis-hit health service, telling hospitals and primary care trusts to live within their means.A tough approach has been signalled from Whitehall as an all-party delegation of local authorities waits to hear when it can put its concerns directly to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

By Graham Dines

THE Government has refused to bail out Suffolk's crisis-hit health service, telling hospitals and primary care trusts to live within their means.

A tough approach has been signalled from Whitehall as an all-party delegation of local authorities waits to hear when it can put its concerns directly to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Department of Health officials insist that the forecast deficit across England represents around only 0.2% of available resources. They have pointed out that funding allocations are made to trusts based on the relative needs of their populations.


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Mrs Hewitt, who has been Health Secretary since the General Election, said: "I do appreciate the very real concerns that have been highlighted.

"All NHS organisations should spend no more than their budget and the boards of each NHS organisation are responsible for ensuring that service and financial targets are met.

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"There can be no question of us simply writing off debt when particular trusts have failed to operate within their budgets."

Mrs Hewitt said other NHS trusts would have to pay off the cash owed.

She added: "Any annual deficits of NHS trusts need to be matched by underspends by other NHS bodies each year.

"In the next year those NHS trusts that have overspent should make a surplus in order to ensure that other bodies can utilise underspends from the previous year. NHS bodies have to improve their financial management."

In a letter, Mrs Hewitt said radical reforms currently being brought in by the Government should improve financial discipline.

She said: "Decisions on funding levels for 2007-8 have yet to be made. By then spending on the NHS will have increased to more than £92billion.

"With this level of investment all NHS bodies should be able to plan for and achieve financial balance each and every year."

Mrs Hewitt also said she would be happy to consider a formal invitation to visit the NHS in Suffolk.

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