COUNCILLORS JOIN TOGETHER TO LOBBY HEALTH SECRETARY

Councillors sitting on Haringey Council’s Overview and Scrutiny panel looking into the health of the borough have written to the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt MP, to ask for a commitment to fairer funding for local health services. They expressed their anger and concern over the way in which the Primary Care Trust’s budget was being raided to support other trusts in London.

Liberal Democrat councillors proposed the letter following the recent announcement that £600,000 was to be taken from the budget of Haringey’s Teaching Primary Care Trust, the body responsible for primary health care in the borough, by London’s Strategic Health Authority. The ‘top-slice’ follows a beginning of year request for 3% of the PCT’s budget, some £11 million.

Councillors expressed their concerns to Ms. Hewitt, pointing out that the original top-slice had led to cuts in front-line services, and that the latest request for more cash was bound to have the same effect. The committee explained that it found it very hard to understand why funds were being diverted away from a borough where there was such high demand for local services, and felt that the measure unfairly penalised the Trust after it had managed its finances with prudence.

In addition, councillors were dismayed with the way in which the funds were taken, part of the way through the financial year, and with little warning. They explained that it was impossible to expect the Trust to be able to plan efficiently when sudden demands for funds could be made at any time. The committee asked the Health Secretary for a commitment that no further similar measures would be taken.

Councillor David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Overview and Scrutiny member, comments:

“I am very pleased that we have been able to gain the support of Labour councillors on this issue. We have heard much from Tony Blair about how much money is being pumped into the NHS, but all we are seeing here in Haringey is cuts, cuts, cuts. Cuts in budgets, cuts in numbers of beds, cuts to sexual health clinics, cuts in X-ray services.

“The latest cuts were unfair – Haringey PCT has been asked to pay because it has managed its budget well enough to be able to pay. The trust and its staff work very hard to provide care to those who need it, and they are being undermined by the Government’s poor management. Labour need to understand that this borough has some of the most deprived wards in the country, and that demand for local health services is very high. We must fight to stop the erosion of health provision in our borough.”