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North London healthcare to suffer to save poor boroughs

PUBLISHED: 14:59 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 September 2010

CASH is to be siphoned from healthcare in north London to aid struggling boroughs elsewhere in London, the Ham&High can reveal. Millions of pounds will be taken from primary care trusts in Camden and Haringey to bail out Bexley, Enfield, Hillingdon, Houns

CASH is to be siphoned from healthcare in north London to aid struggling boroughs elsewhere in London, the Ham&High can reveal.

Millions of pounds will be taken from primary care trusts in Camden and Haringey to bail out Bexley, Enfield, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Kingston - which have run up debts of £119million over a number of years.

Camden will be expected to cough up as much as £15million, meaning the borough will have less to spend on medicine and treatment for its own residents.

Neil Woodnick, vice chairman of the Camden Link, the watchdog that represents local people in social and healthcare, is extremely concerned by NHS London's debt-clearing decision.

"It's the bail-out factor - whether it's right to take the money away from Camden residents," he said. "It will mean they have less money to spend on their own healthcare and means things like hip operations, which are not immediately regarded as a priority, will be put back even longer and there'll be less to spend on specialist medicines."

Mr Woodnick also described the proposals outlined in NHS London's medium term financial strategy report as 'woolly,' suggesting without a substantial improvement in management and finance, throwing money at boroughs in debt would not solve the problem.

"If Camden PCT can stump up the money there is no guarantee they can get out of trouble," he said.

"Clearing debts isn't always the best way to solve the problem. A lot of it is to do with bad management, and if that isn't fixed first, then those boroughs will continue haemorrhaging money."

However, NHS London say the plans will mean an end to uneven healthcare across the capital.

Spokesman Daniel Pople said: "The PCTs are only being asked for one per cent of their funding.

"It's a relatively small amount. It isn't about taking money away from residents, it's about having an equal standing, and making patients better off in other boroughs."

Paul Baumann, finance director for NHS London, added: "This is good news for residents. With all PCTs taking a unified approach, we can wipe clean the capital's historic debt and deliver healthcare for London to improve the quality, safety and choice of services available to Londoners in every borough."

A Camden PCT spokeswoman said that the trust supported the plans - although the actual amount of cash had not yet been agreed.

"The NHS London medium term financial strategy is about PCTs working together and playing an integral role in helping to manage the whole NHS healthcare system across London," she said.

"For Healthcare for London to be delivered equally, there needs to be a level financial

platform from which hospitals and PCTs can invest in services.

"Clearing debt will lay the foundations so that there can be better and consistent investment across London in services for patients and an improvement in the quality of care that is provided.

"Making sure all of the capital's hospitals are financially stable with no historic debt is essential for health services and ensuring choice is available to all Londoners."

And Harry Turner, director of finance for NHS Haringey - formerly known as Haringey TPCT - said: "The total level of funding for health services in Haringey has risen by £58million over the past three years. This represents a 17 per cent growth in funding which is well above the rate of inflation.

"'Every PCT has agreed that the current proposals are not about taking funding from one PCT to give to another, but instead about looking beyond borough boundaries to improve health and healthcare throughout London as a whole.


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