Health trust told to pay others' debts

MARK NICHOLLS Services in one of the region's health blackspots are under threat, after its primary care trust was forced to help pay off the debts of other health authorities.

MARK NICHOLLS

Services in one of the region's health blackspots are under threat, after its primary care trust was forced to help pay off the debts of other health authorities.

Great Yarmouth Primary Care Trust has been told to lend about £5m to the region's central health coffers to bale out NHS trusts in deficit.

But furious PCT chiefs say this money is needed in Yarmouth to address local health inequalities and without it there will be cuts to services and possibly job losses - and they are being penalised for being successful.


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The cash has been requested by the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, which last week identified Yarmouth as an area of high health need in its own Health Atlas of the region, highlighting it as an area with a lower-than-average life expectancy and multiple deprivation.

A senior member of the trust, Dr Adrian Penn, who chaired the PCT's professional executive committee, has resigned in protest.

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Yarmouth PCT chief

executive David Matthews said: "We are looking at how we can achieve such savings. It will mean looking at all possible efficiencies, including service rationalisation, and job losses are a possibility."

Last night, Jennifer Beesley, chairman of the watchdog group, the Patient and Public Involvement Forum for Health in Yarmouth, said the news was a "bombshell".

"This is a devastating blow to local health service provisions and may even lead to rationing of services," she said.

"The forum is writing to the chairman of the strategic health authority urging that the authority reconsiders and acknowledges that Yarmouth is a regeneration area with severe deprivation."

The trust will hold talks later this week with its major service providers - the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston, learning difficulties and community service agencies in Norfolk and the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust - over where savings can be made.

But these are organisations already suffering as a result of cuts. The mental health trust alone fears 120 jobs are under threat after PCTs in central Norfolk withdrew funding worth £6m over two years.

The strategic health authority (SHA) has ordered all PCTs to contribute but Yarmouth has been particularly badly hit as it has shown a stronger financial performance than other trusts in recent years, turning in a deficit of around £1m for last year compared to the combined £22m debt of North Norfolk, Broadland and Southern Norfolk PCTs.

The Yarmouth PCT, with an annual budget of £130m, believes it is being penalised for good housekeeping.

Across Norfolk, the county's other five PCTs have been asked to commit around £10m between them.

A spokesman for the SHA said Yarmouth had enough funding in place to to address specific health inequalities and also achieve national health targets.

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