Norfolk health trust loses �7.5m

Doctors' surgeries, hospitals and health centres have missed out on �7.5m of cash this year after Yarmouth and Waveney's health trust failed to spend it.

Doctors' surgeries, hospitals and health centres have lost out on �7.5m after Yarmouth and Waveney health bosses failed to spend it.

Patients will now have to wait longer for much-needed improve-ments - and could even miss out altogether.

NHS Yarmouth and Waveney was this year given �11m for capital projects like buying land, doing building work, carrying out refurb-ishments and for other one-off costs to improve services to patients.

But it will have to give back �7.5m to the region's strategic health authority because it will only have spent �3.5m by the end of this financial year.

It may get the cash back next year but will have to go through the bidding process again in what will be a much more difficult financial climate for the NHS - throwing into doubt whether the money will be paid at all.

Some of the projects that have missed out include the planned Southwold health centre and the GP-led health centre in Lowestoft, the Falklands Surgery at Bradwell and Greyfriars surgery in Yarmouth. The planned rebuild of Beccles Hospital could also have used some of the money.

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The primary care trust has been planning a whole set of major developments which have been delayed because it has not yet agreed its estates strategy.

The strategy was due in December but has been delayed by a decision to tie it in with the five-year plan - which was itself delayed due to changes asked for by the strategic health authority.

The trust has managed to spend just �600,000 on capital developments in the first 10 months of this financial year, though it has started several more projects in the last few days which are expected to help it get to the �3.5m total.

At Wednesday's board meeting, chairman David Edwards said: 'For whatever reason we have not delivered and because we have not delivered we have got to hand some of that back.'

Patient representative Michael Moore said: 'I am concerned there was a �7m underspend in capital expenditure. I cannot believe there was nothing to spend it on.'

Dave O'Neill, a patient from Bungay, said: 'It is a big issue and a big sum, and a matter of public concern. We would like more information to explain it.'

Alison Taylor, interim financial director, said yesterday: 'By implication the �7m should come back to spend on our schemes. They will look at what we need, what our requirements are.

'Because we have a statutory duty to come in on budget, we cannot overspend. Every primary care trust goes through this process. It is a ridiculous system really. But that is how it works in the NHS.'

Chief executive Mike Stonard said: 'Our estates strategy, which was due to be agreed in December, could not be agreed. That was delayed because all PCTs in the east of England were required to make changes to their overall strategy.

'Our budget will not be reduced next year because we did not spend the money, but I do not know whether we will get the �7m back.'

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