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Primarolo refuses to bail out hospital

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Health minister Dawn Primarolo has refused to write off the debt of one of the most cash-strapped hospital trusts in the country.
In a parliamentary debate, Ms Primarolo said the Department of Health would not waive the historical debt totalling £56m, which is costing Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust £2.7m a year in interest.

The trust has had four chief executives in three years and is set to achieve financial balance this year – but Conservative MP for Reigate Crispin Blunt called for the debt to be lifted to reduce the pressure on the hospital.

Last year the trust, which runs East Surrey Hospital in Redhill and Crawley Hospital, was reprimanded by the Healthcare Commission in its Annual Health Check for poor use of resources and quality of services.

Mr Blunt said: ‘I urge the Minister to use this opportunity to examine the case and to write off the deficit of this trust, which was imposed in unique and not very creditable circumstances.’

But Ms Primarolo replied: ‘The money loaned to the Surrey and Sussex trust by the Department has been provided by other parts of the NHS that have underspent. The trust needs to repay its loan so that the cash can be returned. Simply to write off the loan would be fundamentally unfair to organisations that have a firm grip on their finances.’
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