A CCG in the Midlands is proposing to axe GP counselling services as part of a new round of cost-saving measures.
Shropshire CCG said stopping the services, which offers patients counselling in a GP practice setting, would free up £200,000 a year.
It is one of a range of service cuts it is proposing to save £2m – other services under threat include a crisis home, a treatment centre for children with neurological conditions and a hospice.
The CCG, one of 26 that were recently rated ‘inadequate’ by NHS England, says it has a £14.5m deficit from last year which could rise to £31m this year if no action is taken.
In board papers presented to a governing body meeting last week, the CCG said the counselling services – which included seven individual counsellors based in clinical practices as well as three independent organisations offering counselling services – were not being properly monitored for quality or effectiveness.
But the CCG conceded that the decision ‘may not be supported by primary care’ and that there were concerns the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service ‘has long waits and does not deliver the same service as the counsellors’.
Dr Julian Povey, Shropshire CCG clinical chair and a GP in Shrewsbury, said: ‘While many CCGs have financial problems, we accept we are more challenged than most and that our performance has to be better than in the last 18 months.
‘We are now working with NHS England to move forward and we accept that we cannot continue to spend money we do not have.’
Dr Povey added that ‘ultimately it will not benefit patients if finite NHS resources are used to commission services that are not performing as they should, do not deliver what is required, could be delivered at less cost or should be commissioned elsewhere’.
It comes after NHS England pledged an extra 3,000 mental health therapists in primary care as part of the GP Forward View, and a major expansion of the IAPT programme to help more people with comorbid physical and mental health conditions and medically unexplained symptoms.