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Probe blames key figures for NHS Croydon cash crisis


AN INVESTIGATION into financial turmoil at NHS Croydon will blame individuals for the trust's £28 million overspend, it emerged this week.

The report into the scandal was not due to be published until next week but its conclusions have been accidentally leaked by the council.

Its release could prove embarrassing if, as sources have suggested, the final version is watered down following a threat of legal action from key figures criticised by the report.

The South West London Joint Health and Scrutiny Committee was established after a £1 million independent investigation into the primary care trust's finances uncovered mismanagement but found no one responsible.

In response, five south London councils, led by Croydon, set up an enquiry to find out what really happened.

Its final report was delayed last month after directors who refused to give evidence before the committee, including former chief executive Caroline Taylor, threatened to sue for defamation.

However, its conclusions have now been revealed in a document due to go before Monday's full council meeting. They include:

The misstatement of accounts arose from the actions of individuals rather than from a systems failure

The committee disagrees with the conclusion that there was no evidence of personal gain

In fact there were "significant motivations and opportunities for personal gain"

The conclusions were leaked in the scrutiny and strategic overview committee's annual report, which was published on the council's website. All references to the findings have since been deleted.

From the short extract, it appears the joint committee's attempts to uncover the truth of why NHS Croydon posted a £5 million surplus in 2010/11 when it had actually overspent by £23 million, have been sunk by the lack of cooperation from senior figures, including two Croydon councillors. The report will admit that "without satisfactory evidence" it was unable to support the claim the scandal had no adverse affect on patients and the money was spent on healthcare.

The Advertiser understands the initial draft contained appendices featuring copies of potentially revealing communications between the committee and those who refused to take part. However, these documents may not make it into the final report which is due to be published next Thursday (April 25).

Even the first draft refers to those who would not give evidence by code, rather than their actual names.

Heathfield councillor Jason Cummings, the chairman of the committee, said: "The conclusions published online are not the final report and could be subject to change. As such I'm not prepared to comment at this stage."

Sean Fitzsimons, an Addiscombe councillor and member of the committee, said: "These are a very bland set of recommendations that are very watered down from the original set. Hopefully the final version will be a bit more explicit."

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