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NHS Hospital Debt

Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 22 November 2011

Although the overall financial position remains healthy, we will continue to focus on the small number of organisations in the NHS that are struggling to manage their finances. We are working to help all NHS trusts to be sustainable providers of high-quality health care and move forward to foundation trust status. That will include, where appropriate, agreeing solutions to resolve the regrettable legacy of debt from the previous Government.

Despite the fact that the staff of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust have made big strides forward in improving patient care while delivering efficiency savings, the trust is saddled with historic debt, largely as a result of Labour accountancy measures. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is grossly unfair and will he meet me to find ways of writing off the remaining Labour debt so that my constituents can stop worrying about the future of the only acute hospital in Cornwall?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and completely concur. I have had the privilege of visiting Treliske hospital and seeing the good work that is being done there. In the course of the last financial year, the trust returned a surplus and it is projecting a surplus this year. As she knows, it has a legacy of debt that is being financed by a working capital loan. As with other NHS trusts, we are looking to ensure that through the process of becoming a foundation trust it will move from having legacy debts from the previous Government’s regime to being financially sustainable year-on-year while meeting the viability and balance sheet criteria for foundation trust status.

When will the Secretary of State get a grip and sort out the problems of PFI long-term funding—[Laughter]—given the fact that Ministers promised to do that six months ago and that we are no nearer a resolution than we were before?

I do not know whether Hansard will record it, but the mirth with which that remark was met is an indication from Members that they know perfectly well, as the hon. Gentleman ought to know, that the previous Labour Government left a terrible legacy of unaffordable PFI projects that were poor value for money when they were introduced. He knows perfectly well the position his local trust has been put in. We are working through that, and out of the work that has been done to resolve that poor legacy, we identified 22 NHS trusts which said that their PFI was an impediment. We are working with all of them to resolve that.