The Conservative government’s announcement that £13.4 billion of debt owed by the National Health Service is to be written off is set to massively benefit the hospitals serving Brighton and Hove.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH), which includes the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Princess Royal Hospital, Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Sussex Eye Hospital, had a total debt of £293 million – the highest in the south east.
This announcement by the government means that this debt will be cancelled and that current interest payments on the debt, which probably equate to an annual interest payment of over £4.4 million a year, should now no longer need to be paid.
The result will be that our hospitals will have fewer immediate money worries and this may help reduce workforce shortages as trusts were reliant on short-term loans from the Department of Health.
Longer term, it may also mean there is less internal competition between hospitals, as reducing debt was one of the criteria the government used to measure hospital performance.
So along with the £485 million modernisation of the Royal Sussex, the £30 million redevelopment of the A&E department there, the increased injection of cash to help hospitals cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the continuing improvement in BSUH management and the fantastic local medical staff and key workers, there are a whole host of reasons for the public to have increased confidence in Brighton’s local hospitals.
The public also have one less worry. The future of the NHS is safe – as it unquestionably always has been.
The Conservatives, running the NHS for 44 of its 71 years, have ensured that by changing its funding and securing its financial future at a time of otherwise deep economic uncertainty, the NHS will continue to remain the government’s favourite topic of conversation.
A Conservative Prime Minister, whose very life was saved by the NHS, is not going to let its heroes be forgotten.
Councillor Steve Bell is the Conservative group leader on Brighton and Hove City Council.