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NHS Finances

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:03 am on 14th March 2006.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury 10:03 am, 14th March 2006

Andrew George has done us all a great service today. The Minister will go through her Division Lobby and talk to her colleagues, but she needs to note the fact that, on the Labour Benches generally, there is not enormous concern about the NHS, as is evidenced by the fact that there are very few Labour Members in this Chamber today. That is not because they are uninterested in the subject, but because of the way in which the Government have skewed the formulas and the fact that we now live in two Englands. That so many colleagues are present from the south, the centre, the west and the east of England shows that the NHS, in parts of the country, is in serious difficulties. In Oxfordshire, for example, we received only 85 per cent. of the average of national spending on the NHS.

I shall ask the Minister specific questions. The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS trust faces a £15 million deficit for this financial year. The strategic health authority, at the behest of the Secretary of State, sent in the accountants, the turnaround team. That team concluded that there was no financial mismanagement at the trust—indeed, no incompetence whatever—but that the deficit arose because of "over-trading". The deficit did not become apparent until halfway through the financial year. If it was caused by over-trading, that over-trading did not become apparent until halfway through the financial year. Who is responsible for that? Is it the PCTs, which are the commissioners? Is it the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust? Should it have known that it was over-trading, should the Thames Valley strategic health authority have had mechanisms in place to see what was going on in a key trust, or should the Department itself have known that something untoward was going on?

What do Ministers and their financial advisers mean by "over-trading"? Surely it means simply that GPs have been referring patients on the waiting list to the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust list for perfectly legitimate treatment and operations. How will Ministers deal with such "over-trading"? We have seen that, in part, they are dealing with it through the rather bizarre system called the clinical liaison advisory service, which is, in effect, second-guessing GPs' referrals. That means that the system is trying to limit the number of people who can have access to hospital treatment in Oxfordshire.

Today is Tuesday 14 March. The end of the financial year is only days away, but we still do not know how the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust will save £15 million—we have absolutely no idea. I wrote to the chief executive, Trevor Campbell Davis, some two weeks ago, asking whether he could give some indication as to how, between now and the end of the financial year, he intended to save that money. As of yet, I do not have a response. I think that that indicates that the sum is so significant that the savings can be made only through large-scale closure of wards, large-scale reductions in services and very considerable postponement of operations. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that the books of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS trust are brought back into balance? Is it the responsibility of the chief executive of the trust or is it the responsibility of the chief executive of the Thames Valley strategic health authority?