Cash crisis for health trust
HEALTH bosses are today facing an "extremely serious" cash crisis after it was revealed that a trust's debts are nearly twice what it expected.Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust (PCT), which runs medical services and local hospitals in the district, had been anticipating an end of financial year "overspend" of £1.
HEALTH bosses are today facing an "extremely serious" cash crisis after it was revealed that a trust's debts are nearly twice what it expected.
Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust (PCT), which runs medical services and local hospitals in the district, had been anticipating an end of financial year "overspend" of £1.7 million.
But a meeting of the PCT board was told this was now expected to be around £3m because of increased admissions of people from the district to Ipswich Hospital, higher costs of consultants and a bigger bill for drugs.
And it could lead to the PCT being downgraded from a two-star rated organisation to a one-star.
Chairman Tony Robinson said the trust was in an "extremely serious" financial position, along with the other health providers in the area.
"It is a serious matter and one which we take very seriously. We are aiming to be a three-star trust and we are a two-star trust at the moment, but that could be jeopardised by under-performance on certain financial targets," he said.
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Colin Vincent, acting director of finance, said new consultant contracts were expected to add around £400,000 to the deficit, purchasing drugs would cost an extra £200,000, and extra emergency admissions at Ipswich Hospital - for which the trust picked up the bill - was likely to add £700,000 to £950,000.
"This is going to push our financial position towards a £3m deficit, which is very significant," he told the meeting held at the Elizabeth Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe.
Board member Martin Smith said the PCT was already carrying an underlying deficit of £2.6m inherited from previous healthcare arrangements for the area.
"We were a two-star PCT, and would have been three-star if it were not for the albatross of debt we inherited. Our concern is that there is now a danger, only because of the financial situation, that we may go down to one-star," he said.
"That does not reflect the quality of service this PCT provides. We are the victims of external circumstances which we cannot control."
Chief executive Ana Selby said biggest outlay of the PCT was in commissioning - paying for - services at Ipswich Hospital for patients from the trust area. This was difficult to control as people were entitled to hospital treatment and care.
In those areas where the trust provided services - such as Felixstowe's hospitals or community nursing - finances were tightly controlled and within budget.
Work was being done to try to reduce commissioning costs. One problem was that some patients were by-passing GPs, who would normally refer people to hospital, and directing themselves to accident and emergency - either by turning up or by sending for an ambulance.
This was "quite disturbing" and the numbers doing this could not be sustained in the longer term.
Moves were taking place to treat people in the community, press home the message that it was often quicker to see a GP than wait at hospital, and other initiatives to discourage hospital trips.
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