No they're not!
On Monday, I highlighted how Smokefree South West, in effect a government agency, is using taxpayer funds to lobby the government for plain packaging. This back-scratching public sector exercise with your money is bad enough, but it appears they were spending it willy-nilly despite contributing PCTs being massively in debt.
NHS Wiltshire will finish its days with a debt of almost £9 million, which will be written off by the Strategic Health Authority.Just a thought, but perhaps the repayment schedule might have benefited by not paying out over £220k to Smokefree South West last year, £40k of which has been used for lobbying purposes.
Health Minister Simon Burns said in the House of Commons on March 27, the day before the PCT board meeting, that PCTs must clear historic debts before they are abolished.
The Wiltshire Times asked the SHA why NHS Wiltshire’s debt was being written off and had it sought ministerial approval to take that action.
A SHA spokesman responded: "The SHA continues to work with all PCTs and aspirant CCGs to develop medium-term financial plans that ensure financial control and balance is maintained, to prevent a PCT ending 2012/13 in a deficit position and therefore ensuring that all CCGs start 2013/14 with a clean slate.
"The PCT had an agreed repayment schedule, but, as the organisation ceases to exist on March 31, 2013, the shortfall will be absorbed by SHA reserves, without affecting any other organisation."
From: firstname.lastname@example.orgObscene as that is, it's a third of the story since the funding arrangement is over three years. The amount which could, and should, have been shaved off of NHS Wiltshire's £9m debt is at least £672,000+ if they'd stopped paying for South West smokers to be nagged.
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2012 15:36:55
Subject: RE: FOI:
Dear Mr Puddlecote
The total funding that NHS Wiltshire forwarded to Smokefree South West in 2010/11 was £224,356.
NHS Wiltshire’s contribution towards the Plain Packs Protect Campaign is included within the financial settlement for 2011/12 and included within the overall business plan for Smokefree South West. There is no individual funding line for any of the SFSW campaigns at individual PCT level. However, Wiltshire’s population represents approximately 8.74% of that of the South West. The Plain Packs Protect campaign is costing SFSW £468,462.06. Pro-rata, That means NHS Wiltshire’s share is approximately £40,975.67.
Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact NHS Wiltshire at email@example.com .
Wiltshire Primary Care Trust
The water-calming response is to say that this debt will just be 'absorbed by SHA reserves', but that's over £672k which has been wasted on unnecessary luxuries and can't now be spent on things we expect our taxes to pay for like, you know, patients in hospitals. How much of that £9m is similarly thrown down the drain on other fripperies, we can only imagine.
Remember that next time you hear some medical authority bleating about government cuts affecting front line services.
H/T Moonraking jewel thief