Savings measures slash health debts

DEBTS in east Suffolk's health system could have almost halved by the end of this financial year, The Evening Star can reveal today.Measures such as switching to cheaper brands of drugs have shaved more than £15m off the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) predicted overspend for the year, drastically reducing their overall debt.

DEBTS in east Suffolk's health system could have almost halved by the end of this financial year, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Measures such as switching to cheaper brands of drugs have shaved more than £15m off the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) predicted overspend for the year, drastically reducing their overall debt.

In the summer, the trusts were predicting to have overspent by £18.4m by the end of this financial year but this figure is now down to £2.6m.

When combined with the debts of £21.6m brought forward from previous years the trusts are forecasting that their total debt by the end of March will be around £24.2m. In the summer this figure stood at £40m.


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Julian Herbert, director of finance for the Suffolk East PCTs, said: “There are still some risks around us not achieving this figure, particularly if it is a very severe winter in terms of the number of people admitted to Ipswich Hospital.

“However, at this time last year our predicted overspend for 2004/2005 was £13.2m, so we are in a very different position now.”

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The savings have been made in a number of areas, ranging from a £1.2million saving by getting GPs to stop prescribing “brand name” drugs in favour of cheaper alternatives which do the same thing to reducing non-clinical costs, such as not filling job vacancies when the arise. That practice alone has led to another £1.2million in savings.

A further £750,000 has been saved by reducing the number of people in expensive out-of-county treatment centres, like those for children and adolescents with mental health problems.

Despite being a drastic reduction, the figure of £2.6m is still not good enough to meet Strategic Health Authority (SHA) requirements which state that all trusts must stop their overspending completely by the end of the financial year.

If the overspend is reduced this much it means that most of the money saved next year, from things like community hospital closures, can go towards starting to pay off the debt from previous years.

Mr Herbert said: “If you look at the NHS across the country and the pressures that are being reported, for us to be able to turn this around is a major achievement.

“There is still a long way to go though and it is still short of what the SHA want us to do.”

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