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Independents' Day

CCGs raiding next year's winter reserves to maintain urgent care before the election

Exclusive The GPC has accused NHS England of bowing to political pressures as it was revealed CCGs were asked to maintain urgent care schemes for an extra month ahead of the general election, with many CCGs forced to tap into their 2015/16 winter pressures allocations to finance it.

Among CCGs that Pulse has approached some were able to find the finance elsewhere in their budgets but several confirmed that they had indeed had to source it from next winter’s ‘system resilience’ funding, having only been told to maintain the schemes throughout April with less than one month to go in early March.

A spokesperson for NHS Dudley CCG told Pulse that the funding had been sourced ‘from the 15/16 winter allocation in the baseline.’

A spokesperson for NHS Southampton City CCG said: ‘Yes we can confirm that this money was drawn down from the 2015/16 allocation for winter pressures.’

NHS Stafford & Surrounds CCG also confirmed the funding was drawn from the 2015/16 winter money, with a spokesperson responding: ‘Yes it was.’

The news comes after NHS England made winter pressures funding available in CCG baselines for 2015/16, after the Government was criticised for not giving commissioners enough time to plan with last-minute announcements of extra tranches of funding ahead of previous winters.

The letter to CCGs from NHS England, Monitor and the Trust Development Agency, sent 2 March, said that because of a ‘decline in our delivery against the four -our A&E standard…[we] want to be clear that all schemes that have already been put in place as part of operational resilience plans for 2014/15 should continue to operate during April.’

An NHS England spokesperson told Pulse: ‘In light of the continuing pressure on urgent care services, we asked local health economies to maintain their current resilience schemes until all plans for this year have been agreed. This ensured additional resilience over the Easter period.’

Although, with the Easter weekend falling on the first weekend of April this year, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey suggested that there was another incentive to keep the schemes going until 30 April - the 7 May general election.

He said: ‘I’m not aware of NHS England being as prescriptive as this in previous years, and there is obvious huge political pressure to avoid negative stories relating to the NHS leading up to the election.

‘The problem is that the NHS is running at capacity most of the year, so it only takes very small changes in workload pressures to create a crisis.  What we need is consistent and sustained funding, not short term fixes.’

As previously revealed by Pulse, NHS England also pleaded to local commissioners to put in place last-minute schemes for GPs to stay open on Easter Saturday, although Pulse found that in one practice just three patients turned up while another one saw seven during the extra three-hour shift which was costing taxpayers up to £1,000 in some areas leading to accusations of unnecessary ‘double-running’ of out-of-hours GP services.

NHS England has been allocating hundreds of millions of pounds ahead of the last two winter seasons, a time when pressure on urgent care services typically increases. The £700m allocation for the 2014/15 winter season saw CCGs spending money on a number of measures designed to relieve pressure on hospitals, including a quarter of CCGs commissioning extra GP opening.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Seems quite corrupt,why dont they just admitt that the NHS is underfunded campared to most other western nations.

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  • I wonder if this falls foul of the Purdah (pre election period) guidelines on pre election spending as the money is "winter" pressure monies- I am not sure which part of "winter" the NHS England don`t understand. They would have been perfectly within their rules to have anew scheme for post winter "continued pressures" as quoted by NHSE but it would be admitting that NHS is under pressure which the present Government wouldn't as according to them the NHS is better than it ever was!
    The irony that this money is earmarked for the winter pressure which means this winter if there more pressure there maybe even less resources!

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  • Well one way of saving money was described on R4 this NHS England is proposing that all over 75yr old people should have DNR on their notes. This was probably leaked as it was quickly denied by NHS England . Crass is the word.or one of them. Obviously some people will decide and can already put that on their notes but not if carried out in an underhand way as a matter of policy. What is needed is appropriate time to discuss issues not a dictat about how to pre-arrange a death

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  • The 'care plans' the government want us to use on the over 75s has a box to tick for 'DNR discussed'.

    I very rarely tick it, as ethically I think it is wrong to discuss this, unless the patient is actively in the stage of dying, when of course it is appropriate.

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  • Vinci Ho

    The winter pressure money is surely 'vital' to some practices which are stretching to have been providing extra appointments because of the rising demands. With the money , we employ locums to deliver these extras. Otherwise , it is virtually mission impossible especially when you have colleagues on annual leave:
    The truth the baseline funding should be increased and sustained rather than money being used to buy political rhetoric .....

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  • Thx 12.19pm The way things are going it should be obligatory for the person to sign that DNR has been discussed and a summary of the discussion kept on file......a tick box only is not approriate

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  • 3:09

    With the shortage of GPs, the only way to do the care plans is by phoning people. We have not got the time to have long drawn out conversations on DNR. That is why I do NOT tick the box as to do so would be wrong when I cannot discuss it as I would like.

    If you are suggesting we should all discuss it and document it, then the UK needs a lot more GPs to do this, and they do not seem to be forthcoming.

    Abolish the care plans and free us up to see ill patients.

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  • 6.19pm.horrendous idea no such 'care plan' should ever be dealt with over the phone.....quite right don't do it at all if enough time cannot be found

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  • 8.04 depends if you think the care plan has any meaning

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  • I have to do the care plans because I need the money to keep my surgery running.

    The care plans are a useless waste of time that interfere with my ability to treat the sick.

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