Half of CCGs are planning to delay or cancel spending this year to meet financial targets, a survey of financial managers has revealed.
GP leaders warned that the news, revealed in the latest King’s Fund quarterly monitoring report, was already causing an unfair postcode lottery affecting GP practices and patients around England.
The latest instalment of the think-tank’s survey found that just one in five CCGs are confident that they can balance the books this year, with 50% of CCG finance leads saying that they will likely have to delay or cancel planned spending to do so.
In addition, over 40% said they plan to ‘review or reduce’ the level of planned treatment they commission following the recent downgrading of the 18-week referral-to-treatment target.
And just under half of CCGs were found to be ‘uncertain or concerned’ about whether they would be able to boost spending on mental health services in line with national commitments.
This comes after a Pulse investigation revealed that five CCGs were planning to spend less on mental health next year than they did this year, despite NHS pledges to spend more on the services.
The report also found that:
- A fifth of all CCGs ended 2016/17 in deficit;
- Two-thirds of all CCGs reported their year-end position for 2016/17 relied upon significant financial support;
- Just under a quarter of CCGs relied upon the release of the 1% risk reserve in order to achieve their year-end position.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Practices are already experiencing the impact of being in a CCG with significant financial pressures, with areas such as North Yorkshire and others facing cuts in local enhanced services simply because of CCG deficits that are largely related to an inadequate national funding allocation.
‘Patients nor practices should not be penalised simply because of their postcode and NHS England should ensure that all patients throughout the country get the same level of NHS service provision.’
BMA chair Dr Mark Porter described the finanical situation as a ‘disgraceful failure of our patients’.
He said: ‘The NHS is now in a position where it has to put off spending because the money has run out, leaving patients waiting in pain and uncertainty.’
Dr Porter added that, in the lead-up to the general election, politicians cannot ‘duck this crisis any longer’.
He said: ‘This means, as a minimum, immediately bringing investment in line with other leading European countries and outlining credible, long-term plans that will safeguard the future of the fully funded and supported NHS that staff want and patients deserve.’
Richard Murray, director of policy for the King’s Fund, said cuts to funding will force local NHS leaders ’to make tough decisions about priorities and this is likely to have a direct impact on what care patients can access and how long they have to wait for it’.
He said: ‘This reinforces the underlying reality that demand for services is continuing to outstrip the rate at which the NHS budget is growing.’