New health authority faces £13m cuts

The new health authority for Waveney and Yarmouth has revealed that it will have to make nearly £13m of savings.

The new health authority for Waveney and Yarmouth has revealed that it will have to make nearly £13m of savings.

Leaders of the joint primary care trust, which came into existence less than two weeks ago, stressed that in facing up to their first big challenge they would do everything possible to protect front-line patient care.

The extent of the trust's financial problems was revealed at its inaugural meeting in Lowestoft and a raft of ideas will now be explored to achieve the savings - about 4pc of its annual budget.

Plans already include working with GPs to encourage the use of cheaper drugs without affecting patients, more care in the community to reduce expensive hospital admissions and trying to cut the expense of sending patients outside the area for treatment.

Job losses, other than those directly from the merger of the trusts, are not on the agenda at present.

The trust's director of finance, David Matthews, admitted it would be “challenging” to ensure the books were balanced and levels of care maintained.

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He said: “The situation is not a crisis, but it is challenging. The last resort is to reduce resources and patient services, but I think the new PCT is fully equipped to deal with the challenge.

“One of the big areas is emergency care and we can put in place measures to ensure more community support. We are looking for win-win solutions.”

Mr Matthews said that while there had been significant increases in government funding of local health trusts in the past three years, budget problems had been caused by things like strict new targets on dealing with patients and increases in the cost of drugs.

He said the trust was already trying to make savings of £10m when the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority ruled PCTs needed to claw back a further 1pc - in Yarmouth and Waveney's case £2.6m.

The formation of a Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT followed a long-running campaign to keep the two areas out of new single countywide trusts in Norfolk and Suffolk.

There were fears that close working relationships between Waveney and Yarmouth would be lost if they were forced to go their separate ways.

The new joint Suffolk PCT inherited debts of £35.4m and has been tasked with making savings of £18.7 by the end of March next year.

According to Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, these figures put the Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT's predicament into context and showed why they were better off going it alone.

Mr Blizzard said: “We felt that our coffers would have been raided to bail out the rest of the county.”

Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT chief executive Mike Stonard said: “We have already combined two boards into one and we are in the process of slimming down structures. We are already well on the road to making the savings.

“All PCTs have significant financial challenges. There are constant pressures and we need to be as cost effective as we can.

“It's important to remember that some of the initiatives linked to financial recovery are also linked to improvements.

“Our strategy is to improve services further and we plans to develop and improve services. We need to maximise benefits for patients for every pound we spend.”