Pressure may ease on health trusts

HEALTH secretary Patricia Hewitt has today relaxed her demands on debt-ridden health trusts, it was claimed by the Tories.Conservative MP Andrew Lansley, who is the shadow health secretary, said he had received a letter from her stating that organisations would no longer have to clear their deficits by the end of March 2007.

HEALTH secretary Patricia Hewitt has today relaxed her demands on debt-ridden health trusts, it was claimed by the Tories.

Conservative MP Andrew Lansley, who is the shadow health secretary, said he had received a letter from her stating that organisations would no longer have to clear their deficits by the end of March 2007.

Instead, she is asking all trusts to stop overspending and balance their monthly income with their monthly expenditure, rather than battle to claw back the millions of pounds of existing debt, he claimed.

If Mr Lansley's claims prove to be true, it would be a dramatic U-turn by the government, who were previously demanding that overspending was stopped in the last financial year and all debts cleared by the end of this one.

Health trusts across the country, including those in Suffolk, have worked their financial recovery plans out on this basis.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital and the Suffolk East, said: “I don't think anyone here has been informed that anything has been relaxed, but now we have started with the financial recovery plans and changes to services we would progress nonetheless.

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“We have a statutory responsibility to be in balance at the end of the year and once we have reduced our deficits we can start to move forwards.”

Mr Lansley said the letter he received is a sign the Department of Health is losing financial control of the NHS.

He said: “What Patricia Hewitt has done in the space of the last three months is shifted from a position where the NHS was going to be required genuinely to restore financial balance this year to one where the deficits could well be accumulating again during this financial year and spilling over into 2008.

“What it means is that the government have abandoned their objective of achieving financial balance this year.

“We can see what happens when financial control is lost - we have seen it in the last three months with 13,000 job losses being caused across the NHS and, I regret, undoubtedly more to come and it will manifest itself in service reductions.

“That's what happens when you lose financial control.'

Mr Lansley said he would seek to bring the Government to account on the issue with questions in Parliament today.

Do you think trusts should be given more time to balance the books? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

See page 7 for details of Suffolk health service's latest cost-cutting measures.

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