Health debts spiral
FINANCIAL problems in east Suffolk's NHS are so great that it is overspending by £2,000 every hour, a top health boss has today revealed.Carole Taylor-Brown, interim chief executive of the three east Suffolk primary care trusts (PCTs), admitted the cash crisis is now much worse than initially predicted.
FINANCIAL problems in east Suffolk's NHS are so great that it is overspending by £2,000 every hour, a top health boss has today revealed.
Carole Taylor-Brown, interim chief executive of the three east Suffolk primary care trusts (PCTs), admitted the cash crisis is now much worse than initially predicted.
She said: "Against what we are allowed to spend we are overspending by £2,000 per hour - every hour of every day."
She also revealed that the predicted overspend for this year looks set to be more than double the figure they were aiming for six months ago.
She said: "We are predicting to have overspent by £18.4m at the end of this financial year (2005/6) if we do nothing. At the end of last year we initially thought the 2005/6 figure was likely to be around £9.4m but there's been a significant change there.
"When we reviewed the figures at the end of the 2004/5 financial year we had an opportunity to go through the books in detail, which we hadn't had before.
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"The position was a lot worse than we had anticipated."
Mrs Taylor-Brown also admitted that Suffolk's primary care trusts had been slow to adapt to change which had been a factor in the debts.
She said: "There has been an increase in targets, changes to the structures of organisations etc. We have gone along with it but we have not modernised in the way that we should have. We've just absorbed it and carried on as we were.
"We have to get used to the idea that difficult decisions will have to be made to make things better."
The trusts also have a debt of £21m that has been carried over from previous years.
Mrs Taylor-Brown said: "That is just not a sustainable position and we have to put financial recovery plans in place."
It is these stringent financial recovery plans that look likely to involve cuts to services across the county - with the Felixstowe General first on the list.
Mrs Taylor-Brown admits there will be more changes on the cards.
She said: "Quite reasonably, people are expecting and receiving good quality clinical services, but what we have to face up to is that they have been getting more than they should have been in some cases, because we should have been providing services within our budgets.
"I want to protect services as much as possible but I have to accept that some of the services people are used to may be unavailable, in the short term at least, while we try to bring in some of the changes we need."
Mrs Taylor-Brown refused to speculate on what these services may be at this stage.
She said: "I think it would be irresponsible of me to highlight services when no definitive plans have been made. I don't want to unnecessarily raise concerns."
A number of aspects have contributed to the worse-than-expected financial position including an increase in people needing specialist emergency care outside Suffolk –eg. things like spinal injuries or serious burns where people are transported to hospitals like Addenbrookes in Cambridge and Broomfield in Chelmsford.
Mrs Taylor-Brown said: "The number of people needing this kind of service was more than we'd forecast."
Other key areas where the trusts are overspending significantly include mental health services, prescribing (i.e. prescribing brand-name drugs rather than generic ones that do the same thing) and emergency care.
A report released today by the National Audit Office shows poor management has driven hundreds of financial trusts across the country in to financial crisis.