Swansea Saddled With £6M Health Debt

Health chiefs in Swansea are expected to start the financial year saddled with around £6 million of debt.Finance bosses at Swansea Local Health Board predict it will be burdened with the deficit come April.

The LHB’s debt level stands at £6.4 million, while Swansea NHS Trust has £12.5 million of savings to find by March.

Work has been carried out by the LHB to tackle its outstanding debts dating back to 2005/06.

A plan has also been put in place to curb the high level of emergency patients being taken into the city’s hospitals to help ease the cash burden.

Bosses say its financial position has improved, but members said the LHB has faced a difficult year because its Service and Financial Framework (SAFF) – budget plan – had not been agreed.

Concerns have also been raised that the cost of running some city health services are being charged to Swansea LHB, when they should be funded by Assembly body Health Commission Wales.

Its current debt level with HCW stands at £500,000.

The Assembly has pledged to look into the situation and tackle the issue by April 2008.

But Anne Cowper, non-officer member of Swansea Local Health Board, at its meeting at the city’s National Pool for Wales, said patients could suffer unless the funding issue with HCW was resolved. She added: “The report said what should be charged to HCW will be resolved by the Assembly by April 2008.

“It is not only a risk to the LHB because of the cost of the cases but it is an unacceptable delay to patients.”

Terry Tonks, the interim director of resources, said the LHB had worked hard to improve its financial position.

“The major thing to note is the significant improvement in performance over the previous months,” he said.

“We have been looking at emergency admissions. “Although it had got to a level of one per cent we were concerned that in the final quarter it would go up again.

“There were other gains – there was various work we have done to our outstanding debts and creditor issues in 2005/06. All in all, it’s a significantly improved position.

“What happens in March? Are we going to improve again?”

He added: “We will be starting the year with a £6.5 million or £6 million deficit.”

Jack Straw, Swansea Council’s director of social services, told the meeting it was vital that steps were taken to ensure a budget agreement was in place for the financial year.

Mr Straw said: “It has been a difficult year. The crisis points are that the Service and Financial Framework has not been agreed.

“We move towards the new year and if the SAFF is not agreed we will have to have some sort of budget.

“It’s really important, in the course of this year, to see where the crisis points are.”