Hospital braced for another tough year

Saturday, 22 April, 2006

A BELEAGURED hospital faces another 'tough year' with further possible cuts to services, it has emerged.

The West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has made £6million savings over the past 12 months but needs to find a further £6million savings to tackle the hospital's £11.5million deficit.

The hospital's recovery plan was the centre of discussions yesterday between health bosses and local MPs.

Among the items discussed were negotiations for a renewed funding package between the hospital and the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) which are set to conclude on May 24.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said: 'They still haven't finalised where the axe will fall on beds, staff or theatres.

'The outlook continues to be grim because they face a huge financial problem. They are moving in the right direction but it is going to be difficult because there is still the underlying problem of the funding formula massively discriminating against the people of Suffolk.

'If we received the national funding average we wouldn't have these sorts of problems like being fined for not reaching financial targets.'

David Ruffley, MP for Bury, said: 'We had a detailed and challenging meeting with the hospital chairman and chief executive - the position is that they have made progress with staff using beds more imaginatively and more efficiently and waiting times have gone down.'

But he said there was a lot happening in the next year which would be out of the control of hospital bosses.

'Firstly they are dependent on the settlement they receive from the West Suffolk PCT and I hope they receive sensible amount of money to continue the progress they have made.

'Another thing beyond the hospital's control is if a London minister starts making unreasonable demands over early repayment of the debt. Thirdly the hospital is facing cuts to central government funding from 2008.'

Hospital chief executive Chris Bown said: 'We had a good debate over issues surrounding West Suffolk Hospital and they both asked some searching questions about how we have managed to save money during the course of the year but still reduce waiting times.

'We presented them with a review of what we'd achieved over the past year and had a good discussion about the challenges we continue to face.'