Funding Crisis in Local Health Care Deepens

Primary Care Trust Admits Deficit could Lead to Breach of Financial Obligations

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Financial problems at the Hounslow Primary Care Trust have prompted officers of the trust to admit it may breach its statutory duty and report a loss.

Primary Care covers the typical first contact health services which includes doctors (GP's), pharmacists, dentists and opticians.

The Trust are assuring residents of the borough that the financial problems will have no immediate impact on patient care. A spokesperson said, " Services will continue as normal although we continue to monitor our spending commitments and look for ways to identify a saving without compromising patient care. We are flagging this up as a potential problem but we hope to work with the Strategic Health Authority and others to resolve the problem before it gets any worse."

The Trust has a statutory duty to break even and with a projected debt of £6.4 million the deficit is unsustainable. In a report presented to trust's recent public meeting, the director of finance and performance management explained that financial support from other bodies would not be available in the future. North West London Health Authority has indicated that no further funding would be forthcoming but without external aid the Trust will not be able to meet its obligations and duties.

Hounslow PCT say that they have never hidden the fact that the trust was severely in debt. The debts were inherited by them from the old Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow Authority.

Ann Keen, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, said recently: "The Health Service in Hounslow has been historically underfunded and I am working to change that. I want Hounslow to have the funding its people deserve. My commitment is to get more money into the local health economy and I won't rest until I've achieved it."

The revelation follow on the heels of a report that the West Middlesex University Hospital is £2.5 million in debt. Pressure group, London Health Emergency, has highlighted the financial trouble at the hospital. Last year managers had to turn away 15 critical patients.

Conservative candidate for the Brentford and Isleworth constituency Alexander Northcote said, "The West Middlesex is supposed to be a gleaming example of how the NHS has improved under this Government. But while the doctors and nurses are working hard, the hospital is in a financial mess. Despite an increase in spending of 37.5 per cent since 1999/00, activity levels in hospitals have risen by only 4.8 per cent as measured by completed hospital inpatient treatment."

However Ann Keen, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth, was quick to defend the hospital and point the finger at the Conservatives. She said, "I will take no lectures from the Tories as they continually vote against any further investment in public services. Previous Tory MP's for Brentford and Isleworth have even been health ministers and did nothing for our local hospital. They need to seriously look at the how the deficit arrived in the first place."

April 23, 2004