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CCG abandons plans to suspend non-urgent referrals

Cash-strapped St Helens CCG will not halt non-urgent referrals for four months to save money

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 11 August 2016

St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group in Merseyside has abandoned its plan to suspend routine referrals for four months to save money, after early feedback from a consultation suggested lack of support for the move.

The CCG faces a £12.5 million deficit and had published a consultation document setting out money saving plans which include suspending non-urgent referrals, a ban on providing over-the-counter medicines for minor ailments and self-limiting conditions, a ban on prescriptions for gluten-free products and age restrictions on access to specialist fertility services.

In a statement, the CCG said: "In the light of feedback received to date, it is clear that one of the options, pausing non-urgent referrals, is not supported. For this reason, we are withdrawing this option but will continue to ask for views on the remaining three.”

The CCG had argued that a four-month pause on non-urgent referrals over the winters months would not only ease its financial position but also take pressure off hospitals over their busiest period and reduce the chances of more urgent operations being cancelled. It had stressed that any clinically urgent referrals, suspected cancer and referrals for sick children, would be referred as normal.

Geoffrey Appleton, Lay Chair said: “Since the consultation began we have been listening to and considering all the feedback we have received regarding our proposals. As a result of this we have taken the decision to withdraw it from the consultation.

“The financial challenges NHS St Helens CCG faces have not gone away and we will now be looking at other measures we can introduce to assist with the £12.5 million funding gap. We will continue to work with our partners in the local health system to identify other opportunities where savings can be made. This will undoubtedly still involve some tough decisions about what is affordable but we will continue to consult with local people on our new proposals and listen to their views.”

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