Ministerial action demand over crisis

LILIAN Power, the woman who exposed the crisis in East Suffolk's health service today called for an immediate ministerial investigation into the problems.

LILIAN Power, the woman who exposed the crisis in East Suffolk's health service today called for an immediate ministerial investigation into the problems.

Ms Power, the former chairman of Ipswich Primary Care Trust who sensationally resigned last month, questioned why MPs yesterday gave the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority 10 weeks to show progress in tackling its financial troubles.

"I'm not quite sure what they want to see in the 10 weeks and why they want to wait 10 weeks more," Ms Power said.

"I would like to see a ministerial investigation.

"Why on earth not have a ministerial investigation now? They've had long enough."

The Suffolk MPs gave health chiefs 10 weeks to reverse budgetary failures that have plunged hospital and primary care trusts into a £23million deficit, or the Government will be asked to intervene.

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At a crisis meeting at the House of Commons last night, four of the county's MPs told the Norfolk Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority they were "deeply concerned" at the crisis, which they believed could affect patient care.

The MPs demanded a plan of action should be implemented to deal with the crisis by the end of January and warned that unless there were signs that the deficit was being brought down, they would appeal directly for Health Secretary Dr John Reid to sort the problem out.

Speaking after the meeting, the MPs said they were "sceptical" the financial situation could be improved and feared that it could reach £55m before the end of the next financial year.

MPs Richard Spring (Suffolk West), David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds), Tim Yeo (Suffolk South) and Sir Michael Lord (Suffolk Central and Ipswich North) met Stewart Francis, health authority chairman, and its chief executive, Peter Houghton, after details of the overspending were released.

Mr Yeo said: "There was some pretty plain talking.

"We made clear our extreme dissatisfaction with the performance over the last couple of years which has been getting worse rather than better.

"There was no attempt by the SHA people to deny the existence of a problem.

"They are now clearly aware of the level of concern."

Deficits built up in the county are: Suffolk West Primary Care Trust £5.2m, West Suffolk Hospitals Trust £4.6m, Ipswich Primary Care Trust £5.4m, Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust £1.8m, Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust £5.m, and Ipswich Hospital Trust £1.4m.

The deficit includes £20m brought forward from the previous financial year.

Mr Ruffley said if the MPs were not convinced that the situation could be reversed, then Dr Reid would be asked to use his powers to do it for them.

In a letter to Mr Spring, released before the meeting, Mr Houghton said: "The health authority is continuing to work closely with trusts in Suffolk to ensure that financial recovery plans are robust and effective and that key improvements in access and quality continue to be delivered."


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