NHS money crisis leads to GP pay fear

HEALTH bosses have today admitted they may run out of cash by the beginning of next year.As primary care trusts in east Suffolk continue to overspend they have told GPs they may have to delay giving them the money they are owed for services.

HEALTH bosses have today admitted they may run out of cash by the beginning of next year.

As primary care trusts in east Suffolk continue to overspend they have told GPs they may have to delay giving them the money they are owed for services.

The admission came as senior staff from the Suffolk East PCTs met with GP practices in the area to warn them of the worst case scenario.

Doctors in the county have reacted with alarm to the idea saying any delay longer than a few days could put their practices at risk.

As they are run as small businesses, they say they could face problems paying for rates, rent and salaries - and could even have to cut back orders of drugs or buy them on credit.

Dr Paul Thomas, from Gipping Valley Practice in Barham, near Ipswich, said: “I have a contract with the PCT and they have a legally-binding contract to me and that contract requires them to pay the fees on time.

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“I have my mortgage to pay, rent to pay and staff to pay and at the end of the day the business cannot survive if the fees are not paid.”

Dr John Havard, from the Saxmundham Health Group, said: “It's a sad indictment of the panic the PCTs find themselves in.

“To say 'we are not going to pay any more' is a naive attitude that may get them in contractual problems.”

A spokesman for the BMA in Suffolk - which represents GPs - said a delay of a few days could be understandable in the circumstances but if it was for a few months it could be “quite catastrophic”.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the Suffolk East PCTs, said: “We are facing extreme financial challenges, and wanted to share with colleagues the possibility that, without any external sources of support, we may find ourselves without any cash early in the New Year.

“We are working very hard with the Strategic Health Authority and the NHS bank to secure the help we need to avoid this.

“It would be an absolute last resort for us to defer payments to GPs.”

The three primary care trusts in Suffolk have a debt of £47.9m and are currently proposing a number of service cuts to help them reduce it.

Any decision on the possibility of deferring GPs' payments, which are understood to be paid quarterly or monthly, will be made by the East Suffolk PCTs board in November.

Are you worried about the financial problems faced by Suffolk's NHS? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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