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Half of CCGs plan to cancel or delay NHS spending

GP patient contacts rose by 7.5% over past two years

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 01 June 2017

Around half of CCGs are planning to delay or cancel spending on treatment this year in order to meet their financial targets, it has been revealed.

Think tank The King’s Fund’s latest quarterly monitoring report published today shows that half of CCG finance leads said that achieving this year’s financial forecast was likely to depend on delaying or cancelling spending.

The report details the results of an online survey carried out between April and May with responses from 42 CCG finance leads (covering 50 CCGs) and 84 NHS trust directors.

Data from a sample of 202 GP practices across England was also included in the report as well as a survey of a panel of 68 GP partners and practice managers.

More than 40% (41.6%) of CCG finance leads said they planned to review or reduce the level of planned treatment they commission following the recent downgrading of the 18-week referral to treatment target.

Just under half (48%) of CCGs were also uncertain or concerned about their ability to increase funding for mental health services in line with the national commitments.

The survey of finance directors suggests that NHS finances improved over the last quarter of 2016-17, with more than half of trust finance directors (54%) expecting to have ended the year in surplus, significantly more than were forecasting this three months ago.

Nevertheless, the report authors said that this financial year promised to be another difficult one for the NHS.

While trust finance directors were more optimistic than at this time last year, 43% of them said they expected to overspend their budget and a similar proportion (46%) were concerned about meeting financial targets.

This lack of confidence was also evident in the commissioning sector, with only one in five CCG finance leads confident they could achieve financial balance this year.

The King’s Fund report also says that data shows the total number of GP appointments and telephone consultations increased by 7.5% over the past two years (2014-15 to 2016-17).

Within that rise in demand, the number of telephone consultations had increased by 24% when comparing the third and fourth quarters of 2016-17 with the same quarters two years before, while face-to-face contacts grew by 2.8% over the same period comparison.

Richard Murray, director of policy for The King’s Fund, said: “While the financial picture improved at the end of the last financial year, much of this is down to one-off actions such as selling land. The high levels of concern about the year ahead suggest that NHS providers are again likely to run up a significant deficit in 2017-18, a year when the sector is supposed to be in balance.

“With many CCGs planning to delay or cancel spending, local NHS leaders will be forced to make tough decisions about priorities and this is likely to have a direct impact on what care patients can access and how long they have to wait for it.”

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “The NHS is now in a position where it has to put off spending because the money has run out, leaving patients waiting in pain and uncertainty. This is a disgraceful failure of our patients - financial targets shouldn’t take priority over the need to provide safe and high quality care to those in need.”

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