Trust’s funds raided’

IT will cost £81 for every man, woman and child in Huntingdonshire to make up for overspend elsewhere in the NHS. Huntingdonshire Primary Care Trust, which provides family doctor and NHS dentistry services for people living in most of the district and Pap

IT will cost £81 for every man, woman and child in Huntingdonshire to make up for overspend elsewhere in the NHS.

Huntingdonshire Primary Care Trust, which provides family doctor and NHS dentistry services for people living in most of the district and Papworth, is threatened with cuts of £12-13million in its annual £150million budget.

The trust, which balances its budget each year and is set to make a surplus of £750,000 this year, is already faced with amalgamation with heavily loss-making trusts in Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire.

The Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, to which the Hunts trust answers, is half-way through a public consultation exercise on future arrangement.


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It has refused to consider allowing Hunts PCT to continue as a stand-alone organisation, with an exemplary track record in both healthcare provision and budgetary control - in spite of campaigns to save it by The Hunts Post and the district's two MPs, Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) and Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire).

South Cambridgeshire's MP, Andrew Lansley, who is Shadow Health Secretary and whose constituency includes Papworth, Caxton and Cambourne, also opposes the change, as do 95 per cent of GPs in Huntingdonshire, responding to a poll by Mr Djanogly.

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The planned raid on the Hunts budget was delivered as a bombshell to PCT chief executives on Thursday.

Chairman Michael Lynch, who late last year demolished the SHA's arguments for combining Hunts with the other PCTs in the county, was not even told about it by the SHA, which is itself threatened with annihilation under NHS reforms.

Mr Vara and Mr Djanogly, both of whom are lawyers, question the legality of the move.

"I have written to the Secretary of State (Patricia Hewitt MP) asking how this is legal," Mr Djanogly told The Hunts Post. "Even if it is legal, it is certainly not morally justifiable."

The move - the SHA also plans to keep the £750,000 surplus, which would otherwise have been re-invested in health services in Huntingdonshire - has thrown the trust into financial disarray.

"We have no idea what the effect will be," Mr Lynch said. "It's very demoralising and seems bloody-minded.

"I don't see why Hunts PCT, which has conducted itself fairly and competently when others haven't, should be penalised by an organisation in its death throes. It's a tax on our efficiency.

"Our activities for the next financial year are already identified and planned. Such draconian cuts will devastate much of what is planned, with a knock-on effect for others in the Huntingdonshire health system.

"We are being penalised for being efficient. To have this on top of 're-configuration' (the proposed reorganisation of trusts, which the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee recently said would not save NHS money) is unbelievable.

"We have managed our budget very carefully and very prudently," he said. "We have changed the face of primary care in the area, and we have met all the Government's targets. We are one of the few PCTs in the country operating an effective out-of-hours GP service. We have built up a really premier service."

A year ago, the Huntingdonshire PCT also made a small surplus. As a result it lent £500,000 to Hinchingbrooke Hospital to help fund a £4million deficit the hospital blamed on the NHS's inability to pay for the extra work it had done for patients.

Mr Lynch said the cuts amounted to "postcode robbery" to prop up inefficient NHS organisations. "Instead of putting its house in order by ensuring or demanding sound and efficient management in all of its organisations, the NHS is merely pandering to mediocrity," he explained.

Mr Vara said the SHA was treating the consultation "with contempt", making the exercise a mockery and a sham. "I'm very disappointed that the SHA is behaving in this cavalier fashion", he added.

Mr Djanogly was equally trenchant. "What is amazing is that we have a strategic health authority going out to consultation on a highly contentious issue that is thoroughly objected to, when they are basically saying the consultation is irrelevant.

"It is an obvious example of what will happen after the merger - as we predicted. Any normal person would expect what they are doing to be illegal.

"There's just no incentive to prudent financial management. It's another example of creeping regionalisation of local services.

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