West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, called on Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, to wipe off the debts of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust in the Commons.
Mr George’s question and the response from Mr Hunt are as follows:-
Andrew George (St Ives) (LD):
I welcome the additional money. My right hon. Friend is right that health providers need a stable financial environment, but many of them have been left with a debilitating legacy of debt. The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust in my own area has a legacy of debt, which is just a fraction of the amount by which the Government have admitted that they have underfunded the local health economy over many years. Rather than having distorting activity going on in that trust, would it not be better for it to start with a clean sheet of paper and to build for the future rather than constantly having to work from a position of debt?
I sympathise, because the previous Labour Government left hospitals with more than £70 billion of PFI debts. Those debts must be paid off and that money cannot be spent on front-line patient care. We have done what we can on a case-by-case basis to help trusts deal with those debts. It is extremely difficult when resources are tight and of course I will consider the trust’s particular case.
Mr George said after the exchange, “It’s scandalous that the RCHT remains saddled with a debt which still distorts its decision making and threatens its future and potentially jeopardises patient safety. This goes back to a period when the RCHT generated a debt smaller than the amount the Cornish health community was being underfunded by Government. This needs to be dealt with and soon.”