Health trusts gripped by debt

SOME of Suffolk's health trusts are still grappling with massive debts - despite the NHS under-spending in 2006/07 for the first time in years. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced yesterday that the NHS had saved £510m in the last financial year, compared to a loss of £547m in 05/06.

SUFFOLK'S health trusts are still grappling with massive debts today despite the NHS under-spending in 2006/07 for the first time in years.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced yesterday that the NHS had saved £510m in the last financial year, compared to a loss of £547m in 05/06.

But 22 per cent of organisations are still struggling to tighten the purse strings - including Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT), which was £30.8m in the red - one of the biggest debts in the country.

Chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown said: “Suffolk PCT has made good progress in many areas since it was set up on October 1 2006. We have turned around the financial position within the resources allocated.

“The PCT has produced an underspend for 2006/07 of £4.6m to reduce the accumulated historic debt from £35.5 million at the start of the year to £30.9 million. The PCT has a plan for 2007/08 that will reduce the debt by a further £18.9 million.

“Most of the actions to achieve this will also see an improvement in services for patients. These robust plans set out to clear the debt completely by 2009.”

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But, critics say the journey to balance the books has wreaked havoc on the NHS and is a return to boom and bust health economics.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association's Consultants' Committee, said: “There have been excessive cuts in service and it will take years to rebuild the trust and collaboration that has been destroyed in the past year.”

But Ms Hewitt said the impact on patients had been kept to a minimum while the NHS now had a fairer and more transparent financial system.

N Has your life been affected by Suffolk's health debts? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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