Health bosses' farm fiasco continues

SUFFOLK: Health bosses are today considering ploughing even more money into their doomed farm fiasco at a time when the government is demanding cutbacks.

Naomi Gornall

SUFFOLK: Health bosses are today considering ploughing even more money into their doomed farm fiasco at a time when the government is demanding cutbacks.

Although NHS Suffolk said it bought the six-acre site opposite its headquarters in Bramford for half a million pounds to turn into a car park, it can be revealed that it is considering renovating the dilapidated farm house to create more staff facilities and training areas.

This comes as the Department of Health released its Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2010/11 report, which sets out a target to reduce management and agency costs by 30 per cent.

The government has said the NHS needs to make �15bn to �20bn of savings by the end of 2013/14, which can then be reinvested into frontline services.

In September the Star asked NHS Suffolk if there were any plans to renovate the farm building, and it gave a definite “no” answer.

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However the county's primary care trust has now admitted a possible option in the future will be to get “some good use out of the building”.

At present though, the spokesman stated its priority was just the car park and the issue of renovating the farmhouse was “very much undecided”.

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “It appears the PCT cannot make its mind up about what it is going to do. It made it quite clear it was not the purpose to buy this for staff facilities. It seems they have no strategic plan.

“They do not understand that with the country in the state it is, there is not going to be any money except for important frontline services. Renovating a farmhouse for training purposes does not come under any frontline services.

“This was a diversion of its financial priorities and they should drop this plan.”

Geoffrey Fairs, from Rushmere St Andrew, has been outraged by the issue and wrote a letter to the Department of Health and the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In a reply from the DoH, it stated that the car park will be the most “cost-effective” solution to the problem with parking at the site.

Mr Fairs said: “It would seem this government just don't give a damn what is happening to our public money.”

Julian Herbert, NHS Suffolk's director of finance and performance, said: “Our position regarding our investment in Paper Mill Farm remains unchanged from that previously stated in response to your questions to us.”

What do you think of NHS bosses plans? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2010/11 report states that although these reduction in costs need to be made by 2013/14, most progress should be made well before that.

It will be for Strategic Health Authorities to determine how these cuts will be managed across the primary care trusts.

At present NHS Suffolk said the exact details are still being determined, but it will be looking at reviewing its service contracts and its relationship with the public sector.

Julian Herbert, NHS Suffolk's director of finance and performance, said: “We are already making real savings, and we have outline plans to make further efficiencies to the level determined nationally. For example we will look to re-negotiate contracts with suppliers for various management support services. We are also reviewing potential efficiencies through closer working with other NHS and other public sector organisations.”

Martin Royal, director of business development and external relations at NHS Suffolk, added that in a bid to reduce management costs, it will be reviewing all its service contracts (in areas such as facility management and estates) and looking to prevent unnecessary doubling up in roles.

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