Published: 10/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5946 Page 6

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children received widespread national coverage this week for a£1.7m deficit - even though many other acute trusts are facing far greater financial problems.

At the weekend the hospital became involved in a political spat when it admitted its current£1.7m deficit had meant cutbacks in nonemergency services, including a reduction in overtime payments to staff and bed numbers in order to meet financial balance by the end of the year.

Great Ormond Street has had to cut services because it has performed more operations than it will be paid for by primary care trusts already this year.

A trust spokesman said that because 'the hundreds of PCTs that commission services from us will not be able to pay for the extra work we have had to operate more prudently'.

He said the trust's eight theatres 'were [sometimes] standing empty for up to three days'.

The trust has also revealed it will have to continue with a number of cost-cutting measures next year.

A spokesman said it was too early to say whether the trust's financial situation would be affected when payment by results is introduced across the NHS next year.

North Central London strategic health authority, in which Great Ormond Street hospital is sited, has a deficit of£5m across its organisations. The Royal Free Hospital trust, also in its patch, is£9m in the red.

An SHA spokesman admitted the 'nature of the services provided at Great Ormond Street Hospital mean that it is an emotive issue'.

Health secretary John Reid said assurances had been given that the hospital will not turn away seriously ill children.

'While action is being taken to reduce the deficit, the priority is to ensure that any impact on patient care is minimised, ' he said.

'The trust should be at balance by the end of the financial year.' But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'It is shocking that so important a hospital, providing vital services to children, is not getting the resources it needs.