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Cash crisis threat to hospitals

PUBLISHED: 17:10 27 January 2010 | UPDATED: 10:30 12 August 2010

AN NHS spending freeze next year could see up to £20billion worth of cuts across the capital, according to a health expert. The British Medical Association (BMA) commissioned a report, London s NHS on the Brink, written by health policy expert Dr John

AN NHS spending freeze next year could see up to £20billion worth of cuts across the capital, according to a health expert.

The British Medical Association (BMA) commissioned a report, London's NHS on the Brink, written by health policy expert Dr John Lister, which predicts bed cuts and hospital closures.

This echoes what has already happened locally, where the A&E unit at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, (QMS) is due to shut permanently, with already busy hospitals in Farnborough, Woolwich and Dartford expected to pick up the slack.

The report reads: "The situation in outer south-east London is dominated by the plight of South London Healthcare Trust, the crisis-driven shotgun merger of three financially challenged trusts, Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Bromley Hospitals and QMS.

"The trust began life with almost £200million of historic debts, fueled in part by the costly PFI-funded QEH (£799m for a building costing £96m) and Princess Royal University Hospital (£788m for a hospital costing £118m), which have resulted in high and inflexible overheads, and inadequate bed numbers made further problematic at QEH by the financial problems forcing long-term ward closures.

"The financial crisis in these two trusts, and the high costs of terminating the PFI contracts, have meant that attention has turned to Queen Mary's as the easiest and cheapest source of substantial cuts in services and spending."

Dr Lister claims that hospitals across the capital have been reporting increases in A&E patients, with caseload expected to continue to rise. He states that 21 per cent of mental health beds have been lost throughout the capital, even though occupancy has been increasing to reach close to 100 per cent in some trusts.

The report states that NHS London proposes that by 2017 about 75 per cent of all visits to casualty and 50 per cent of all outpatient appointments, especially for long-term conditions such as diabetes, will be dealt with by a network of 100 polyclinics.

It reads: "Given the scale of this problem, which NHS London has estimated as more than £5billion real-terms cuts by 2017, PCTs and trusts are being pressed to begin cutbacks now rather than delay.

"In response to this, NHS London proposes a package of measures, including switching care to polyclinics and concentrating acute and trauma care at selected acute hospitals. Many existing hospitals would by implication be downgraded or closed."

A spokesman for NHS London was unavailable for comment as the Times went to press.

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