09 January 2006 | Anusha Bradley
Suppliers to hospitals and primary care trusts in Surrey and Sussex face payment delays because the NHS bodies have run out of money.
An Audit Commission report last week warned that trusts in the two counties were heading for a collective debt of at least £75 million by the end of March. A dire lack of cash meant wages and suppliers might not be paid, the report said.
A spokesman for the Surrey and Sussex Strategic Health Authority told SM: "There will be a delay in meeting the better payment practice conditions for payment. Trusts within the Surrey and Sussex area are having a difficult time because they have run out of money."
He went on to add: "As a supplier, I also might not be paid."
Minutes from a September board meeting of the strategic health authority show members "expressed concern over the increasing reluctance from suppliers to provide services, or bid for tenders due to a belief that they would not be paid on time, if at all".
The Audit Commission report, Public interest report on the Surrey and Sussex health economy, warned: "Continued overspending will generate real cash shortfalls and ultimately threaten both the supply of goods and payroll."
It added that insufficient action had been taken to improve finances.
"Some of the savings programmes in place are extremely ambitious and at high risk of failure. Halfway through the current financial year, only 34 per cent of the identified savings plans, totalling £149 million, has been achieved," it concluded.