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Quarter of trusts cutting PBC budgets

By Nigel Praities

A quarter of PCTs are cutting their practice-based commissioning budgets in an effort to shore up their finances, Pulse can reveal.

Reductions in funding for PBC of as much as 55% are planned, with commissioning GPs claiming trusts are ‘salami-slicing' primary care budgets.

Financial figures gained under the Freedom of Information Act from 62 PCTs found 24% were cutting PBC budgets and 6% were freezing them compared with last year.

Swingeing cuts were planned in a number of areas, with NHS Newcastle slashing its PBC budget by 42% in 2009/10 compared with 2008/09, and NHS Bolton reducing its budget by 55% over the same period.

The revelation comes despite GP leaders and ministers saying investment in PBC is essential to ride out the looming financial crisis in the NHS. It also comes after GPs in South Birmingham were enraged by being forced to forgo savings through PBC to prop up the ailing finances of their PCT.

A spokesperson for NHS Bolton said the cuts were because two years of ‘pump-priming' of PBC was coming to an end. ‘The PBC consortiums have been working with the PCT to achieve financial balance, and in view of this and the re-focused model of working, there was consensus pump-priming would not be continued.'

Dr Shane Gordon, national co-lead for the NHS Alliance's PBC Federation and a GP in Colchester, Essex, said the cuts were being made in areas where they had yet to see the benefit of PBC.

‘Cutting back on the source of your salvation is a bad idea. If PCTs want to control their budgets by resorting to the salami slicer, patient services will suffer and cost more.'

Dr Shane Gordon

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