THE chief executive of a Yorkshire health trust has admitted soaring debts could prove his “worst nightmare” amid fears a £19m deficit will more than double by next year.
Influential figures in the region’s NHS voiced grave concerns that the multi-million pound black hole blighting North Yorkshire’s primary care trust (PCT) could reach £50m by March.
The revelations came as the British Medical Association stressed NHS trusts facing financial turmoil must be identified before they get to breaking point.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is trying to turn round one trust that is losing £1m a week. South London Healthcare NHS Trust will be the first in the country to be put under the control of a special administrator to put it on a viable footing.
Ministers claim another 20 trusts facing serious financial difficulties could face the same plight.
The Wakefield-based Mid Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust is facing the worst crisis in the region and is expecting a £26m deficit by March although it has not yet been singled out by Ministers.
At a board meeting yesterday of NHS North Yorkshire and York, chief executive, Christopher Long, admitted the trust will need a “dose of good luck” to ensure its £19m deficit does not grow. He also confirmed savings of £22.5m its £1.25bn budget were needed, adding “The best case is £19m and the worst case is probably our worst nightmare.”
The chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee, Councillor Jim Clark, asked whether the £19m deficit was a realistic figure.
Coun Clark, a retired chartered accountant, said: “This problem has been hidden away in previous years, and I do hope that this is a new era of openness and honesty.
“But I am extremely concerned that the £19m is not realistic.
“When I looked at the figures, I thought the deficit will be nearly £40m or even £50m, which is a huge concern for everyone involved.”
The financial crisis in North Yorkshire has emerged as the Government’s latest NHS restructuring leads to the end of regional health authorities next March.
Since the county’s PCT was established in October 2006, NHS services in the county have relied on bailouts totalling more than £100m from Yorkshire’s health authority.
But Mr Long has confirmed the authority’s demise means the end of the financial lifeline.
The PCT will itself be disbanded with four new GP-led clinical commissioning groups taking over from April.
Talks are under way to decide if the new NHS Commissioning Board will cover the debts or they will be borne by the new groups which in any case will face a major battle to cut costs.
Health chiefs are drawing up a turnaround plan to deliver safe, sustainable and affordable services leading to a shift from hospital care to provide more services in the community.