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PCTs 'being ordered to create a surplus'

A strategic health authority has put pressure on primary care trusts to create a surplus in case it needs to bail out their struggling neighbours.

South West Peninsula SHA wrote to all NHS organisations in Devon and Cornwall warning them of the 'need to maintain tight financial control to assist in achieving a balanced financial position across the SHA at the end of the year'.

GPs said PCTs would take the comments as an instruction to underspend in the final months of the financial year.

NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon, a GP in Collumpton, Devon, said PCT chief executives were performance-managed by health authorities and would feel pressure to return a surplus. 'I would not have any problem with that if surpluses were likely to come about spontaneously, but that's not the reality.

'PCTs won't be able to bring about improvements, meet targets and have a surplus without cutting out something,' he said.

Devon LMC chair Dr Peter Jolliffe said the statement 'sounded like an order' to return surpluses. 'Either they have devolved decision-making power to localities or they haven't,' he added.

An SHA spokesman denied PCTs were being instructed to return surpluses and said any underspend could be used on top of the PCTs' next financial allocation.

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