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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
MPs to investigate NHS deficits
A committee of MPs is to launch an inquiry into the scale of the financial problems afflicting the NHS in England.

The Health Select Committee decided to act after the announcement of more than 7,000 job losses at NHS trusts across the country.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has twice been heckled while addressing health union conferences this week.

The inquiry will try to establish the reasons for the current difficulties, and their effect on patient care.

The quest is to make sure that we can get evidence from the people that are handling the situation in the NHS
Kevin Barron

MPs will analyse the findings of so-called "turn-around teams" sent in to aid the most affected trusts.

They will also consider whether there are any problems with the current system for allocating funds.

However, the inquiry is unlikely to get under way before June, and will not conclude until MPs return from summer recess in October.

It is planned to hold two evidence sessions before the end of July.

Subsequent sessions will take place in the autumn when the audited accounts of trusts for 2005-06 are available.

Kevin Barron, the Labour chair of the committee, said: "Basically the quest is to make sure that we can get evidence from the people that are handling the situation in the NHS."

Mr Barron said it was "vital" to establish what the trouble-shooters had learned about the deficits and what action they considered necessary to get the NHS back on track.

It is thought the service in England will end the financial year with a deficit in excess of 600m.

Ministers argue that only a small proportion of trusts are in financial difficulties, and that the projected deficit is only around 1% of the total NHS budget.

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