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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 19 July 2007
Risks of hospital profit motive

I READ with interest John Gulliver’s review of the University College London Hospital chief executive’s report to the governing body (Should our hospitals be riding the profit tiger? July 12) and I have also studied the financial reports to the governors.
I am not surprised there is questioning of the relationship between new “profit centres” and the needs of patients.
In fact UCLH is pioneering the profit centre approach as one of only three pilot projects sponsored by Monitor (the govern­ment regulatory quango).
Whether or not it is intended, the 12 current clinical divisions, when they become profit centres, will be competing against each other in financial terms.
The most profitable will be rewarded and/or expanded. But what about the least profitable?
A company such as Toyota would close a loss-making unit forthwith. Would UCLH? UCLH overall finances are sound, its balance sheet is strong, its financial recovery plan is on track. Windfall gains from property sales such as the Middlesex further bolstered the financial position.
There are future risks – such as reduction from £46 million to £17 million in central research funding, and changes to training and education funding as a teaching hospital.
Nevertheless, does a hospital need cash balances available of £117 million as set out in the chief executive’s report (with projections of similar amounts right up to the year 2009/10)? I am reminded of my recent experience as chair of budget scrutiny of Camden Council, when I uncovered numerous and huge reserves and balances, and persuaded the council to begin to spend them on delivery of services.
Finally, those members of the governing body whose concerns you quote, should remember they ultimately have the powers and duty to hold the chairman, chief executive and directors to account, and to guide and direct their management of the hospital and its finances.
Toyota’s only mission is to maximise dividends for its shareholders.
The mission for a great hospital such as UCLH is to maximise the health and wellbeing of its patients.
(Local patient candidate for UCLH governing body)
Plender Street, NW1

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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