PCTs help struggling hospitals fight Tory NHS cuts

It has emerged today that Primary Care Trusts have been using ‘back door’ methods to help fund NHS hospitals that have been left in the cold by government spending cuts.

It has emerged today that Primary Care Trusts have been using ‘back door’ methods to help fund NHS hospitals that have been left in the cold by government spending cuts. A BBC report shows that local PCTs have been using tactics designed at channelling patients away from private health providers in a bid to protect public hospitals.

As a result nearly half of local NHS mangers are now being subjected to a government enquiry with one source claiming:

“Trusts seemed to be motivated by a desire to protect their local hospitals in the tight financial situation.”

Following a complaint from Circle, a leading private healthcare provider, the Co-operation and Competition Panel (CPP) are investigating whether PCTs are acting in a way which contravenes competition rules which are applied to non-emergency treatments.

The benefit to local NHS hospitals of deploying these tactics appears to be a financial one. An interim report of the CPP shows:

“Providers that are successful in attracting patients will be able to earn revenues that, in the case of NHS Foundation Trusts for example, can be reinvested in other services. Providers that do not attract sufficient patients face the prospect of being unable to meet their financial obligations.”

As recently as December the prime minister restated his commitment to NHS funding at Prime Minister’s Questions when he said:

“We want to see NHS spending increase by more than inflation every year.”

Following the chancellor’s budget it was revealed that NHS funding would actually decrease in real terms by 0.9%. The news that NHS management is having to take innovative action to protect the financial sustainability of public hospitals will deliver another hammer blow to the Tories’ NHS credentials.

The NHS played a vital role in the ‘detoxification’ of the Conservative brand and was a key part of David Cameron’s election strategy. The Tories now find themselves in a position where they are being seen as privatising the NHS whilst at the same time cutting its budgets.

It was not too long ago that David Cameron was heaping praise on Alan Milburn; however, his comments today sum up the government’s problems in one sentence:

“The coalition’s reforms have conflated the four words it was trying to avoid – cuts, privatisation, health and Tory.”

It appears that Mr Cameron will be having another week of NHS headaches.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.