NHS managers have admitted GP commissioners will inherit multi-million-pound PCT debts from next April – despite repeated assurances from ministers that ‘no legacy debts' will be passed on to CCGs.
NHS North Yorkshire and York said it had notified the Department of Health of its intention to pass on £19m debt for 2012/13 to CCGs from next April because of the ‘significant financial challenges' facing the PCT.
The disclosure comes despite ministers continuing to insist that debts will not be passed on to CCGs – a key demand of Pulse's A Clean Slate campaign last year. Health secretary Andrew Lansley told CCG leaders at the Commissioning Show in London last week: ‘As we have said before, we are still intending for CCGs to start in April 2013 with no legacy debts.
‘It won't be true in the provider sector – it will be true for you as commissioners.'
NHS North Yorkshire and York, which is being superseded by four CCGs from next April, warned in its latest financial report to its board that it risked ‘running out of money' this year. The report said: ‘We have formally notified DH of our projected deficit (overspend) of £19m for 2012/13.
‘This means that on our current projections we do not believe that we will be able to meet our statutory duty to break even in financial terms.'
The PCT added: ‘Without significant changes to patterns of expenditure, NHS commissioners in North Yorkshire and York risk running out of money this year.
‘This means that they will be unable to pay providers for services to patients, which in turn means providers will be forced to take drastic actions in order to cut their costs. This kind of unplanned cost-cutting must be avoided.'
Dr Vicky Pleydell, a GP in Catterick, North Yorkshire, and shadow accountable officer for Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG, said there was ‘no easy solution' to the historical financial problem.
Writing on her personal blog, Dr Pleydell said: ‘It [the financial problem] has been there for years and years but in the past it has been temporarily sorted with loans from the SHA and made up of money from other PCTs who have under spent. This year there is no bail-out and so we will probably finish the year in deficit too.'
Dr Pleydell said the CCG would need to ‘re-engineer our system' to tackle the deficit, by shifting more care into the community.
‘That means fewer beds in hospital and the money that used to pay for those beds can be used to employ community staff,' she said.
A DH spokesperson confirmed that CCGs would inherit any debts incurred during 2011/12 and 2012/13, adding:
‘The NHS is delivering excellent results for patients but we know that a small number of organisations have financial problems.'