Sunday, November 12, 2006

 Eastern Daily Press
Hospitals may get lifeline on debt. Battle plans are being drawn up to fight for more time to be given to Norfolk's cash-strapped health authority to pay off its £50m debt. Former home secretary Charles Clarke is to investigate the chances of giving Norfolk Primary Care Trust an extra 12 months until March 2009 to clear its deficit, a move which could also reduce the severity of cuts to patient services. However, health chiefs have warned that an extension of the deadline would also mean a delay in developing new health services as that will not happen until the debt is cleared. Over the past few days, a number of Norfolk MPs have been involved in secret talks with PCT chief executive Hilary Daniels and chairman Sheila Childerhouse over the financial crisis. Patient services are being cut back with the PCT currently required to balance its books by the end of March 2008. But with debts soaring to £50m, MPs fear that is an increasingly tall order. Already, community hospitals and beds are under threat of closure. While concern was expressed over the threat to community hospitals, MPs also heard that the government's funding formula leaves the PCT under-funded by around £30m a year.

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So what about doing the same for Hinchingbrooke or is their one rule for Labour and another for the rest?