Health secretary speaks out over debts

HEALTH secretary Patricia Hewitt MP has laid the blame of Suffolk's crippling health debts at the door of the Strategic Health Authority.And she has said that the government would not be writing off the massive debts of more than £40million.

HEALTH secretary Patricia Hewitt MP has laid the blame of Suffolk's crippling health debts at the door of the Strategic Health Authority.

And she has said that the government would not be writing off the massive debts of more than £40million.

Responding to concerns raised by The Evening Star, Mrs Hewitt wrote from her Whitehall office about the financial crisis, which has seen major cuts to services in the county.

The secretary of state said it was the fault of NHS organisations including the Norfolk and Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA), which manages the performance of hospitals and primary care trusts in the region.

Mrs Hewitt said: "I do appreciate the very real concerns that have been highlighted.

"All NHS organisations should spend no more than their budget and the boards of each NHS organisation are responsible for ensuring that service and financial targets are met.

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"There can be no question of us simply writing off debt when particular trusts have failed to operate within their budgets."

Mrs Hewitt said other NHS trusts would have to pay off the cash owed.

She added: "Any annual deficits of NHS trusts need to be matched by underspends by other NHS bodies each year.

"In the next year those NHS trusts that have overspent should make a surplus in order to ensure that other bodies can utilise underspends from the previous year. NHS bodies have to improve their financial management."

In the letter Mrs Hewitt said radical reforms currently being brought in by the government should improve financial discipline.

She said: "Decisions on funding levels for 2007-208 have yet to be made.

"By then spending on the NHS will have increased to more than £92billion.

"With this level of investment all NHS bodies should be able to plan for and achieve financial balance each and every year."

Mrs Hewitt also said she would be happy to consider a formal invitation to visit the NHS in Suffolk.

What do you think of Mrs Hewitt's comments? Have you been affected by cuts in services? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN

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