Inquiry into health trust’s budget failings

Published: Tuesday 26th June 12

Wandsworth is supporting calls for a new inquiry into the causes of a financial crisis that has engulfed one of south west London’s largest NHS trusts.

The borough has joined neighbouring councils in calling for "a full and proper enquiry" into a £28m failure of budgetary control by Croydon primary care trust.

The error, which has been blamed on mismanagement within the PCT, had a financial impact on other primary care trusts across south west London as NHS bosses struggled to balance the books.

The council's support for a fresh inquiry follows the publication last week of a report by NHS London which found "significant deficiencies" in the PCT's financial controls but exonerated senior managers from any blame.

The report found that "substandard financial processes" and "misplaced confidence" in its financial safeguards led the trust to post a surplus of £5.4m, when it had in fact overspent by at least £22.7m.

Supporting calls for a joint local authority review, Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said it made sense to set up a review at a regional level because residents across the whole of south west London had been affected by the knock-on effects of the Croydon case.

He said: "There were some very serious failings at Croydon PCT and these had a very destabilising effect on other NHS organisations across the whole of south west London.
"It is important for us to ensure that all the proper lessons are learned and that public money is better safeguarded in the future.

"This needs a transparent process and one that involves the accountable NHS managers."   

The leader of Croydon Council, Cllr Mike Fisher, who has led the calls for a joint inquiry said: "The loss of control of finances at Croydon PCT was completely unacceptable. We need to make sure there is proper public accountability for what has happened.
"We think it only right in the circumstances for the boroughs of south London to establish a joint scrutiny and overview committee specifically to try and understand how this happened and where responsibility lies.

"The committee would also review the good progress that would appear to have been made since in terms of financial recovery, to assure ourselves that this is real and sustainable."
Cllr Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said: "The NHS report describes a process that can only be described as a shambles yet has nothing to say about accountability.

"I hope a joint scrutiny by the south west London boroughs will expose the proper accountability issues. It is only in this way that lessons can be truly learned and the public have any confidence."

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