SOME health services in St Albans could be sacrificed in order to repay a long-standing debt that has plagued the NHS system in Hertfordshire for "years", a spokesman admitted this week.

The £50 million was borrowed over a number of years from various NHS sources but NHS Hertfordshire was last year ordered to repay the money.

An agreement was reached with the NHS Bank that it would provide the Beds and Herts Strategic Health Authority (SHA) with the first £25 million this year and the rest the following year.

But the NHS Bank has since declined to stump up the rest of the money prompting anger from Hertfordshire's PCT's and hospital trusts.

A spokesman for St Albans and Harpenden Primary Care Trust said an understanding had been reached between the NHS Bank and the SHA that the money would be forthcoming.

He added: "We were led to believe that if certain criteria were met then the bank would provide the money and, frankly, we think we have met those criteria.

"To be told in the way we were that the money will now not be arriving is disappointing to say the least.

"There are several options which we are looking at. One is carrying on regardless and another is a reduction in services but obviously neither of those are preferable."

The spokesman was unable to specify what services might face the axe.

Head of communications at the PCT, Wendy Lloyd, said a £400,000 underspend that the PCT achieved last year would have to be frozen.

She added: "The same is true of all the PCTs and trusts across Hertfordshire. It's disappointing because here in St Albans we were hoping the money could have been used to provide some additional services."

PCT finance director Alan Pond said: "At this early stage a plan is still to be developed to deal with this but the eventual plan is likely to result in less capital funding being available and under spends from 2002/3 being frozen."

Ms Lloyd added: "We are determined not to reduce any services. Meetings are taking place at all levels including at the Department of Health with a view to exploring other avenues of funding.

"Hopefully, this can be resolved successfully but certainly one of the results of this may well be that there is less capital money available for modernisation."