Hutt 'Rewards Poor Health Management' HEALTH: Overspending Debts of Pounds 41m Written Off

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Byline: TOBY MASON Political Correspondent

HOSPITALS and health authorities which have failed to balance their books have been given millions in extra cash, leaving those which kept within their budgets with nothing.

The National Assembly was accused of rewarding poor financial management as it announced yesterday that it would bail out trusts and authorities which had mismanaged their budgets.

A "clean slate" package of debt write-offs amounting to pounds 41m was hailed by Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt as a "new start for the New Year".

The health organisations will receive the money only if they balance their books for two consecutive financial years.

Officials admitted that three quarters of the cash was directly linked to controversial new NHS structural reforms and had already appeared in the Assembly budget.

A total of pounds 30.3m has been written off in the latest budget to cover the debts of the health authorities, giving the local health boards which will replace them next year a "clean slate" to start.

It would have been impossible to transfer the health authorities' debts to the new boards because they cover different geographical areas.

North Wales health authorities are angry that their counterparts in Mid and South Wales are having their overspends written off, suggesting that North Wales is being penalised for sticking to spending limits.

Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones said, "I feel that trusts like my own, Conwy and Denbighshire, which have always delivered services within budget and met government targets, could be forgiven for raising the fact that this appears to have rewarded poor financial management."

Conservative health spokesman David Melding said, "This is not new money and the trusts which have not overspent their budgets are not having their virtue rewarded."

Plaid Cymru shadow health minister Dr Dai Lloyd said, "This shows the incompetence of the current system. These are recent debts and they should be investigated and the people responsible held to account.

"This is public money being used to write off the debts."

An audit committee report released last week revealed serious concerns about financial management in the NHS in Wales. …