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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 06:27 GMT
Terror attacks added to NHS debt
By James Clarke
BBC News, England

Police outside the sealed-off University College London Hospital on 21 July
University College London Hospital was sealed off by police on 21 July
The London bombings in July 2005 added to the debt crisis facing the NHS, it has been revealed.

NHS trusts and primary care trusts across England are more than 1bn in debt - with almost a quarter of that deficit concentrated on London.

University College London Hospitals NHS Trust, which has a debt of 17.4m, said about 2m of that was caused by having to care for victims of the attacks.

A spokesman said the financial cost was much less serious than the human cost.

The attacks on 7 July by four suicide bombers on three tube trains and a bus killed 52 people and injured hundreds.

Many of those were treated by the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Trust - a foundation trust which operates eight hospitals in central London.

Our staff worked tirelessly to help victims of the atrocities
Trust spokesman

At the time of the incident staff were in the process of moving into a newly-built hospital in Euston Road.

There was further disruption when a failed attempt at more attacks was made on 21 July, with the area around the new hospital sealed off by police.

The spokesman said: "Our staff worked tirelessly to help victims of the atrocities, which happened right in the middle of the highly-complex move to the new hospital.

"While financial costs are much less important than human ones, our estimate is that our direct loss of income because of the incidents is around 2m.

"The knock-on effect, both in terms of lost activity and the extra stress put on staff at what was already a very stressful time, has been much greater.

'High quality'

"This has resulted in the trust, at its half-year point, having a deficit of 17.4m on an annual turnover of nearly 500m."

The trust said it had anticipated being in debt this year because of the move and had arranged with Monitor - which oversees foundation trusts - to return a deficit this financial year as a one-off.

But it said the debt turned out to be bigger than expected.

Since completing the move to the new hospital the trust has been able to treat more patients, which management said has helped them generate more income.

Professor David Fish, medical director, said: "As the move to the new hospital is a one-off disruption, we are confident of achieving financial balance on an ongoing basis.

"Our priority, while making this happen, is to keep up the high quality of services that we offer to patients.

"Any accumulated deficit will be covered, as always intended, by the sale of the old, redundant hospital sites."

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