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October 7, 2019 10:20 AM

Chris Bowers speaking at a packed local members' meeting in Uckfield, Oct 5 2019The NHS is haemorrhaging "hundreds of thousands of pounds in Wealden" through interest payments on debt, according to figures unearthed by the Liberal Democrats.

The figures from the Department for Health and Social Care, uncovered by a Liberal Democrat Freedom of Information request, revealed over £600 million worth of interest on outstanding debt was paid nationally by NHS trusts to the Department for Health and Social Care in the last five years.

According to calculations by the Lib Dems, that money could have paid for 22,000 nurses, 13,850 clinical psychologists, or 6,700 consultants.

Wealden is served primarily by two NHS trusts - the Sussex Community Trust caters for the north of the district, including Crowborough, while the East Sussex Trust looks after the southern part, including Uckfield. Sussex Partnership trust provides some services in the Hailsham area.

The Sussex Community trust paid £90,226 in interest in 2017-18, while the East Sussex trust forked out a staggering £3.7 million in the same year. Not all that money is attributable to Wealden, as the trusts cover wider areas, but it still denotes a major waste of money.

Chris Bowers, Wealden's Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the forthcoming general election, said: "While hard working doctors and nurses are being forced to work with insufficient resources, it's utterly irresponsible that the Conservatives have starved Wealden's NHS trusts of hundreds of thousands of pounds through debt interest.

"If the Conservative government was actually giving our hospitals the funding they need, then health trusts wouldn't be forced to run a deficit in the first place.

"This debt interest is going to the Department of Health and Social Care, so it's lining government coffers while hampering hospital and surgery services in Wealden."

The Lib Dems' statistics also show that the NHS trusts, which service a local area or specialised function to deliver aspects of healthcare, paid almost £63M of interest on outstanding debt in 2013-14. By 2017-18, it had risen to over £205M.

The revelation reinforces concerns from the National Audit Office, which warns "the underlying financial health in some trusts is getting worse", despite the government's stated commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan to "reducing year-on-year the number of trusts and CCGs individually in deficit, so that all NHS organisations are in balance by 2023-24."

More information on the Liberal Democrats' plan for Health can be found here.