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CCGs set to inherit multi-million pound debts from PCTs next year

Exclusive: CCG leaders are likely to be saddled with multi-million pound deficits from April next year, despite previous Government assurances they would not inherit legacy debts.

Managers in at least five areas across England are predicting they will begin the new financial year with a deficit.

It comes as the NHS Commissioning Board revealed it is looking again at the issue of CCG debt. It is due to make an announcement in early December to clarify what will happen to any deficits or surpluses left over by PCTs.

Even earlier this year ministers were continuing to insist debts would not be passed on to CCGs – a key demand of Pulse’s ‘A Clean Slate’ campaign.

Then-health secretary Andrew Lansley told CCG leaders at the Commissioning Show in July: ‘We are still intending for CCGs to start in April 2013 with no legacy debts.’

However, a Pulse investigation reveals that CCG leaders in many areas are likely to have large holes in their finances from April 2013.

A financial report from Croydon CCG forecasts a ‘best case’ scenario of a £5m deficit by the end of the financial year, and a ‘worst case’ of a £12.6m deficit if it does not get financial support.

NHS Hillingdon has had to borrow £15m from a neighbouring PCT to cover its deficit, which will have to be repaid by Hillingdon CCG over a three-year period.

Board papers show NHS Peterborough is predicting £6.4 million of the PCT’s historic debt will remain in 2013/14 and NHS Enfield is forecasting a £5.3 million deficit.

And September board minutes for NHS North of England SHA cluster confirm that, as reported earlier this year, NHS North Yorkshire and York is anticipating a £19m deficit.

Meanwhile Stafford and Surrounds CCG said it is still forecasting a balanced position at the year end but it has overspent by £885k by the fifth month and achieving a balanced position will depend on ‘delivering a series of mitigating actions to offset the current known risks’.

Dr Michael Dixon, interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said it was crucial CCGs were given a ‘fighting chance’ by being free from historic debt in April 2013.

He said: ‘There is no reason for CCGs to pay for the sins of their fathers.’

Dr Huw Charles-Jones, chair of West Cheshire CCG, said CCGs with inherited debt would ‘struggle’, but added that the whole local health economy would have implications on CCGs’ commissioning decisions.

He said: ‘If your major provider has difficulties, it will make it harder.’