Some £800m stored up by CCGs as contingency funds will be used in full to offset trust deficits, NHS England has said.
CCGs were asked at the beginning of 2016/17 not to spend 1% of their budget to avoid the overspend that occurred in the previous year.
At the time, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said this was money which ‘would have been available from CCGs for mental health services, community health services, primary care and other things’.
But today an NHS England spokesperson said: ’As we’ve been saying since the start of the year, we set aside £800m to cover provider deficits if needed, and we do now need to.
‘This is uncommitted money that would otherwise have been invested at the discretion of commissioners.
‘It will be important to get the trust deficit down next year so planned investments can take place.’
BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said the move was ‘scandalous’ and amounting to ‘accounting tricks’.
He said: ‘The NHS is clearly underfunded and services are unable to keep up with rising demand, but instead of addressing this the government has chosen more stopgaps and accounting tricks over providing good services for patients in desperate need.
‘Taking funding from mental health, community and primary care to prop up deliberately created deficits will do nothing about the fact that most NHS trusts are in the red, our GPs are struggling to meet rising demand with inadequate resources, our hospitals don’t have enough beds and patients are waiting longer for essential care.’
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Yet again, we are hearing that vital funding that should be used to provide much needed support for GPs and our teams on the frontline of patient care in the community – where the vast majority of NHS patient contacts are made – is being taken away and used to plug hospital deficits.
‘It makes no sense to take funding away from GP services, and instead use it in a way that will only serve as a sticking-plaster solution to an ongoing problem. General practice is the bedrock of the health service – we provide the most cost-effective form of care and in doing so, we keep our patients out of hospitals, alleviating pressures right across the NHS.’