Region's NHS still £90m in the red

Monday, 24 April, 2006

THE NHS in the region remains more than £90million in debt - despite staff cutbacks and beds being axed.

And despite primary care trusts and hospitals in Suffolk making vast savings in the last 12 months, it is estimated they will end the financial year around £50m in debt due to overspends in previous years.

The projected figures are contained in a report to Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority. All debts need to be repaid in 2006/07.

PCTs and NHS Trusts have received external support from 'Turnaround Teams' to develop plans to reduce expenditure.

Health bodies in Suffolk are working with clinicians to ensure that care is cost-effective and to reduce the cost of drugs and the use of expensive mental health placements outside Suffolk.

The figures predicted the debts for PCTs in Suffolk would have been nearly £35m at the end of March, while Ipswich Hospital's deficit was expected to be just over £5m, and West Suffolk Hospital's £11.2m.

Tony Robinson, lead chairman of Suffolk East PCTs, said: 'The financial achievements of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts this year are outstanding.

'We developed and put into practice a robust financial recovery plan, and thanks to the tremendous efforts of all staff, we hope that our final figures will show that we are now in recurrent balance (not spending more money than we have) and are moving from recovery to sustainability.

'Put very simply, we saved £16 million last year. We were spending £2,000 an hour more than we had on healthcare, every hour of every day. Now this figure on overspending has been reduced to virtually nothing at all.

'When we started to draw up our recovery plan, we estimated that as an NHS in east Suffolk we would be £47 million in the red. This figure has been significantly reduced to around £26 million.'

West Suffolk PCT's forecast deficit for 2005/06 is £13.3million, according to the report.

The PCT's financial recovery plan was expected to have delivered £9.6million of savings by March 31, 2006.

Mike Stonard, who became chief executive of Suffolk West PCT in May 2005, said: 'To save £9.6m in just nine months is a tremendous achievement for which the staff of the PCT and its management team deserve high praise.

'Staff have continued to provide high-quality clinical services while contributing to these significant savings at a time of some uncertainty caused by the reconfiguration of primary care trusts and our own plans to modernise services. We still have some way to go but now would be an appropriate time for some public recognition of what has been achieved.'

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley predicted another tough year as health officials grappled with budgets in a bid to clear the deficits by the end of 2006/07.

'Suffolk hospitals have had to make massive savings in the last year and this has put a huge strain on staff. The question is will they be able to make similar savings in the coming year to keep the deficits falling?'