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Tories claim NHS £350m overspend

Hospitals are cutting services in order to prevent a forecast overspend of more than £300m, a Conservative party survey has revealed.

Hospitals are cutting services in order to prevent a forecast overspend of more than £300m, a Conservative party survey has revealed.

The survey, collating results from over 70 NHS Trusts, showed a combined deficit of £350m and that, as a result, hospitals are closing wards, cancelling operations and cutting jobs in order to save money.

Highlighted in the survey was children's hospital, Great Ormond Street, which has had to cancel 44 half-day operations to avoid amassing debts through treatment costs. The hospital has also frozen its recruitment of agency nurses.

The Conservatives also claimed that a leaked letter from a Primary Care Trust to a hospital told the hospital to stop carrying out non-emergency operations because of financial reasons.

Only last week, the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust revealed that it had frozen recruitment in an effort to avoid overspend. The Trust said that it has debts of more than £4m, and has predicted a year-end shortfall of £6m.

In a higher profile case last year, Monitor, the regulator of Foundation trusts in England, sent in professional advisers in an attempt to improve the financial situation of Bradford Teaching Hospitals. However, the firm uncovered further financing problems and subsequently estimated that the Foundation Hospital would report an £11.3m loss by the end of 2004.

Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: ìThe government is planning to fine hospitals because they don't have the resources to meet the distorting targets set by ministers. It's time to stop wasting money on bureaucracy, targets and endless government agencies and instead to start spending money where it is really needed - in the front-line.î

However, the NHS Confederation defended the cutbacks, arguing that the survey did not put the reductions in context.

Nigel Edwards, policy officer at the NHS Confederation said: ìThis is not cutting back to the core as happened at times in the 1990s.î

Problems varied from trust to trust and NHS accounting rules have tightened, he added.

30th September 2008

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