Health funding - mixed reactions

INCREASED funding for Suffolk's health services has been today been met with mixed reactions.As revealed in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star, Suffolk's primary care trusts are set to receive a £68m increase in funding in 2006/7.

INCREASED funding for Suffolk's health services has been today been met with mixed reactions.

As revealed in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star, Suffolk's primary care trusts are set to receive a £68m increase in funding in 2006/7.

Designed to help drive down waiting times, provide quicker access to GPs and recruit more staff, the money is part of the government's biggest-ever investment in the NHS.

However, health bosses and the county's MPs are greeting the news with caution.

Paul Kemp, director of finance for the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, said: "Many parts of the NHS across our patch are facing financial challenges at the moment and, while this new allocation is certainly good news, the money will need to be invested wisely to secure sustainable benefits."

The money is part of a £135 billion investment in the NHS across the country in the next three years.

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In 2007/8 Suffolk's PCTs will receive a further £86m boost.

This increase, of around nine per cent, is three times the rate of inflation but Suffolk is still receiving substantially less than other parts of the country.

The investment works out at £1,271 for every person in the county but the national average is £1,388.

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said: "The fact we are so far below the national average is a continuing scandal. It's a story of discrimination against shire counties like Suffolk.

"Suffolk does have areas of difficulty and we are not getting a fair share of the cake."

He added: "I fear a lot of this money will be swallowed up by cutting the deficit and paying off past debts."

Ipswich MP Chris Mole said it is important to focus on the huge increases in funding, rather than the comparison with other areas.

He said: "Ipswich PCT is receiving close to the national average, and when you consider the figure was only £879 per person in 2003/4, the difference is dwarfed by the amount the spending has increased.

"It is exactly the sort of investment we are looking for to sustain the continuing improvements in waiting times and other performance issues in the NHS locally."

Lilian Power, ex-chairman of Ipswich PCT, said: "It's always good news to see new money coming into the health system and this money is very welcome.

"However, given the huge number of new commitments this money is expected to fund, and the savings the NHS is expected to make in Suffolk, the PCTs will have to work very hard to make sure the people who actually do the work on the ground, the hard-pressed primary care staff, are effectively supported and not expected to do more and more for less and less."

What do you think of the new money? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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