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NHS deficits - Campaign Briefing

October 13, 2006 10:35 PM
By Serena Tierney

The issue

Despite record investment in the NHS since Labour came to power, the NHS has a final audited deficit for 2005-6 of £547 million.

The number of organisations in deep debt has more than trebled in the last year. The knock on effect on the local health economy is severe - with hospitals being pitted against each other in a struggle to survive the onset of cuts.

The Government repeatedly claims that heavy debt will not affect patient care. Yet just this year, there have been thousands of posts cut and many ward closures reported. In June 2006, acting Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Ian Carruthers, said that he could not rule out the closure of whole hospitals.

Impact on Central Sussex

The losses in the South East Coast SHA (Strategic Health Authority) Economy which includes Sussex total over £94 million. These are shown in total by Health Trust and PCT on page 8 of the above report. A review of the detail shows that nearly the whole of this deficit arises in Sussex. The impact on our area is therefore potentially very severe.

Make our Health Service Accountable

The latest financial losses, the resultant changes and threats to our local health services are a cause of major concern to all local residents. They underline how important proper accountability is to the future of our NHS:

What say will there be for patients in the Tories' plans for an independent NHS?

- In the Tory plans, bodies to represent the views of patients and the public are separate to the independent management body and to the overall planning power of GPs. By itself, devolving power to the professionals does not mean that local communities and ultimately patients will have more control over the services on which they depend.

- Giving GPs power to commission services is something already being done by the Government in the form of Practise Based Commissioning. The scheme is currently beset by problems. An Audit Commission report in June 2006 said the Government's flagship scheme risks "exacerbating financial pressures", "widening inequalities" and wasting money. GPs at the annual LMC conference in June 2006 claimed that the scheme could shift blame for NHS inadequacies from PCTs to GPs and offloads historic deficits onto general practice. How will the Tories address these problems if they are planning on increasing GPs freedoms - and what form will this take? How will they ensure that doctors are accountable to patients, rather than to themselves, and we do not have a repeat of the wasted opportunity of GP contracts?

The real challenge is to create local accountability in the NHS - so that people have a genuine say in the running of their local health service. Cameron's plans do nothing to address this.

Without making the link between what patients want and the shape of the health service, any independence will create another layer of unelected bureaucracy - independent of politicians, but accountable to no-one.

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