Call to justify care trust move amid multiple hospital closures

IAN CLARKE A Norfolk MP is calling for transparency from Norfolk's debt ridden primary care trust on how it will save more than £40m while at the same time moving to a new multi-million pound headquarters.

IAN CLARKE

A Norfolk MP is calling for transparency from Norfolk's debt ridden primary care trust on how it will save more than £40m while at the same time moving to a new multi-million pound headquarters.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson met the PCT's acting chief executive Julie Garbutt and chairman Sheila Childerhouse yesterday to discuss how it would deal with its £47m debt.

The trust is yet to release figures to show how it will save £14m this year and a further £40m next year.

It plans to move out of its ageing base at St Andrew's House in Norwich, and wants to lease a £2.5m extension to Breckland Council's offices in Dereham at an estimated £180,000-a-year.

It claims that by moving out of older buildings and by renting a modern purpose-built office it will slash its bills and be able to sell unwanted buildings.

Most Read

Mr Simpson said: "This is an important question that needs to be answered for the sake of people looking at this and thinking 'This is amazing, they are closing hospitals and moving to new headquarters'.

"What is concerning is they are going through all this change against a background of having to make savings of £40m in 2008, at a time when there is no new money coming into health.

"But I think they are only too aware of how important transparency is within the limits of commercial sensitivity.

"Their line is they will go through a difficult patch but will be in a much better position than a smaller PCT to tackle this debt because of the economies of scale and being able to sell assets off."

Mrs Childerhouse said: "We are potentially in danger of wasting money on ancient buildings that are costly to heat and light, such as St Andrew's House.

"We are not seeking to buy a property, but to rent at the best possible value, office space which is fit for purpose.

"Our aim is to sell off old buildings and release the capital to ensure the money we spend is on patient care."

This week the PCT spelled out the future of nine community hospitals and more than 200 NHS beds with gains for Dereham but losses in Fakenham, Aylsham and Cromer.

The PCT has been in negotiations with Breckland about having shared facilities but no definite decision has been made to relocate its 100-plus staff to Dereham.

The issue is due to be discussed at the trust board meeting on Tuesday.

Breckland Council has submitted proposals to its own planners - which have just been made public - and letters in the application say the extension is intended as an "administration base" for the PCT.

According to the application, there would be a new three-storey building next to Breckland's Elizabeth House offices, which would be for the PCT and include a joint reception area for it and the council.

The current Breckland committee suite would become a canteen for communal use.

PCT vice-chairman Andrew Egerton-Smith recently said all options were still being considered, but Dereham had lots in its favour particularly its central location.