Healthcare chiefs braced for tough times

MORE care could be provided in people's homes rather than hospitals as Suffolk's healthcare system gears up for tough financial times ahead, it can be revealed today.

MORE care could be provided in people's homes rather than hospitals as Suffolk's healthcare system gears up for tough financial times ahead, it can be revealed today.

Health bosses country-wide have been warned to expect to tighten their belts in the next couple of years as the impact of the recession bites.

NHS Suffolk, which buys and plans healthcare in the county, is already trying to plan for the uncertain future, which could see cuts to services.

And Julian Herbert, the trust's director of finance and performance admitted that services may need to be cut to balance the books.

Mr Herbert said NHS Suffolk was already looking at ways of cutting its budget, such as encouraging medics to prescribe generic rather than brand name drugs and trying to provide care in people's homes, rather than in hospitals.

He said that the trust was already discussing the future with partner organisations such as Ipswich Hospital.

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The trust has �845million to spend in 2009/10 and estimates that will rise to �894.8m in 2010/11, but Mr Herbert, said it was extremely difficult to prepare any further into the future.

He said: “We are looking five years ahead. What's clear is that while in the short term we know how much we are getting and it is fine, we think beyond that there will be a tightening of the belt of the NHS in general because of the recession.

“This will happen no matter who the governing party is.

“We need to be preparing now for that and planning ahead. We need to look at prioritisation of expenditure.

“It is likely that in 2011/12 things will be much more difficult. And every year the cost of NHS services increases because of the growing elderly population.”

He added: “All we can do as a primary care trust is manage and hope we don't have to make really difficult decisions later.”

Are you worried about the future of Suffolk's healthcare? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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