Debt relief for troubled PCT

HEALTH chiefs have written off debts of £18m that had been facing NHS services in North Yorkshire.

The decision by the strategic health authority to clear money owed by North Yorkshire’s primary care trust (PCT) lifts a major burden from the trust, which has been beset by severe financial problems for a decade.

Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee, told the Advertiser: “This is good news and gives us a level playing field going forward.”

He said that while the PCT still faced serious challenges, “it does help and it’s been something that people have been annoyed about over a number of years, that this debt has been hanging over us”.

The PCT inherited a debt of £48m when it was formed in 2006, with the remaining £18m a legacy of the move.

“It wasn’t really Harrogate that caused the debt, but it was a historical debt and one of the problems they had was that as well as not having enough money year on year, they were going to have pay back that debt at some stage to the strategic health authority (SHA),” Coun Clark said.

“All the SHA have done is to write off that debt, so what this does is take one of the problems away from the PCT.

“They just have to worry about the current situation.”

The decision to clear the debt, ahead of Government reforms to hand NHS spending to GP commissioning groups, comes amid signs that the PCT is struggling to hit its £23m savings target for 2011-12, prompting warnings that further measures will be needed.

A new report by the district auditor also warns the reforms will present a “major challenge” to the PCT to “continue delivery of efficient and effective services, preserve sound financial control and stewardship, and support the successful transition to new arrangements, with no loss in quality”.