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GPs in overspent PCTs brace themselves for hit squads

By Joanna Clarke-Jones

GPs in PCTs with huge deficits are bracing themselves for further cuts in services after the Government announced it was sending in management 'turnaround teams'.

NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp told the health select committee the hit squads would target 'a minority of NHS organisations who are failing to manage within the resources available'.

Some 23 PCTs with predicted deficits of more than £5 million will be targeted by the teams, who come from the independent sector and within the NHS.

Hillingdon, the PCT predicted to have the biggest overspend, at £25 million, will be one of the trusts affected.

Dr Tony Grewal, Hillingdon LMC vice-chair, said of plans to reduce the deficit to £12 million by April: 'They may as well try to turn water into wine.' He added: 'The only way they are going to save money is by doing less or sacking people.'

Dr Grewal said GPs were already being asked to do more for less money, and referrals had been hit. 'What's going to happen is that GPs will be asked to manage patients for longer until the money is up to treat them. It's nonsense to try to run the NHS as a profit-making body.'

Dr Tim Saunders, a GP in Chester, where Cheshire West PCT faces an overspend of almost £15 million, said 'it would be a good idea to send a hit squad into the Department of Health'.

He said 'myriad conflicting central directives and policies' such as targets on access and waiting times, foundation trusts and payment by results were to blame for PCT deficits.

In Suffolk West, where a £14.5 million overspend is forecast, PCT professional executive committee chair Dr Andrew Hassan said the Government's 'unfair' funding formula meant the PCT was underfunded by nearly 5 per cent this year.

He said: 'I would be delighted to be within budget ­ if we had a realistic budget.'

The NHS is expected to have a collective overspend of around £620 million by the end of the financial year. The plan is to reduce this to £200 million, which trusts will have to repay next year.

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