Health system 'collapse' fear

JEREMY Pembroke, the leader of Suffolk County Council, fears there could be a “total collapse” of health services in the county as trusts try to balance their books.

JEREMY Pembroke, the leader of Suffolk County Council, fears there could be a “total collapse” of health services in the county as trusts try to balance their books.

The authority has warned of the “extremely damaging circumstances” that could result from the Primary Care Trusts' (PCTs) financial recovery plans.

It has spoken out about its great concern over the speed of change and the impact on patient care.

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke is so worried about the situation he has now asked the chief executive to sound the alarm bells with Government.

He said: “The Government needs to be aware that, here in Suffolk, there is a widely-held perception that there could be a total collapse of local health services.

“Social care and housing budgets are insufficient to meet new levels of demand if NHS Services are withdrawn without alternatives being in place.

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“I am also concerned about the alarm being expressed by many Suffolk people as they see deterioration in the health service generally in the county.

“I have asked our chief executive, Mike More, to write to Sir Nigel Crisp, at the Department of Health, to make the council's concerns clear.”

The local authority fears the financial penalties PCTs will have to pay for failing to meet current targets will cause significant additional instability in future years.

The trusts' budgets have also failed to take account of Suffolk's rapid population growth since 2001, the council said.

Mr Pembroke said: "The speed of change and consequential impact on services of the financial recovery plans are threatening the quality of health care in the county.

“The demographic trends and the rapid growth of population within Suffolk are not recognised in the formula for distribution of funds.

“PCTs must be given more time to avoid a chaotic situation arising where people's health will be endangered and a further loss of confidence in the NHS within the county occurs."

However, the authority is supporting the PCTs' plans in a number of areas, including the right to be given more time to resolve financial difficulties.

A spokeswoman for the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA) said: “It is the responsibility of the local PCTs and trust boards to ensure that they achieve financial balance whilst still ensuring they deliver effective and efficient health care services for their communities.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “All NHS organisations are expected to plan for and achieve financial balance.

“The boards of each NHS organisation are responsible for ensuring that financial targets are met.

“However, Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) are responsible for managing the performance of their Primary Care Trusts and delivering financial balance for their local health communities.

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