November 26, 2007 3:56 PM
David Howarth MP

David Howarth MP


November 26th 2007

Contact: 07703716961

Embargo: Immediate

The Cambridge MP, David Howarth, has demanded a "standstill" on health service cuts in the County following the revelation that the NHS is in surplus nationally and will be ploughing any surpluses back into frontline services.

Mr Howarth said: "This boom and bust approach to NHS finances must stop. It is yet another example of Government mis-management.

"I would like an assurance from health service managers that they will look closely at their decision to close Brookfields hospital. Cambridgeshire PCT needs to find out if it will be benefiting from a redistribution of health service finances.

"As I have said before it makes no sense to close wards in one part of the Country when over £900 million of NHS money is going unspent elsewhere. Brookfields is an issue which is of utmost importance to my constituents. For those patients who need in-patient rehabilitation care, these plans would mean that they would face weeks of treatment in other parts of the county, away from family and friends.

"I hope that the PCT listens to the concerns of local residents and saves these wards."

Mr Howarth's Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health was instrumental in unmasking the full extent of NHS surpluses. He had asked:

"May we have a debate on the effective use of resources in the health service? I have been trying to discover what lies behind proposals to close Brookfields hospital in my constituency and I have found out that vast amounts of public money is lying unspent in the accounts of strategic health authorities: £960 million last year and a predicted £660 million this year. Surely it makes no sense whatsoever to close hospitals in one part of the country while vast amounts of public money is unspent in other parts."

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have called the multi million pound under-spend in the NHS an absolute disgrace and nothing to be proud. Their Health Spokesman - Councillor Geoff Heathcock said:

"At a time of ever growing pressure to save money, ration services, this is

really appalling to thousands across the County who either wait for a service or get told you aren't sick enough. I agree with David Howarth MP that we need a cuts standstill until we know the exact situation that we are dealing with in Cambridgeshire. The matter needs to be clarified urgently. "

As much as £1.8bn, about 2% of the budget, will be left unspent this year, the Department of Health says.

The NHS was ordered to balance the books after running up a £547m deficit in the financial year 2005/06.

Ministers have said that any surplus will be put back into patient care next year.

The SHA has today issued a statement to Mr Howarth saying:

"The NHS in the east of England is now forecasting a modest surplus of £90 million, just over 0.1% of the budget. The surplus is due to most NHS organisations in the east of England having now paid off their debts and living within their means. The SHA has provided support to NHS organisations in the region to ensure they have robust financial plans in place in order to meet their statutory duty to achieve financial balance.

"Surpluses made by individual PCTs will be protected for use by that PCT to invest in future patient services. Surpluses in one PCT will not be used against deficits in other PCTs. "

Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust is on target to achieve an overall financial balance by March 2008, as well as contribute £10 million towards its £52 million historic debt. It is aiming to be debt free by March 2010.


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