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NHS bosses forecast cuts will get even deeper

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: NHS bosses are forecasting even deeper financial cuts than initially feared under the efficiency savings programme, with GP leaders warning of ‘terrifying' levels of budget slashing by primary care organisations.

A Pulse survey in April found that cuts to meet the required £15-20bn of ‘efficiency savings' – which health secretary Andrew Lansley has admitted will have to increase - were already biting into frontline services.

But NHS managers now admit their financial troubles have significantly worsened in the last month, and they will need to make further savings.

NHS Bedfordshire updated its list of priorities in May's board meeting minutes and said it would have to cut another £8.5m, on top of its existing efficiency plans.

It said: ‘Since the April board meeting, the financial position for 2010/11 has become more challenging, and there is currently a shortfall in the funding available.'

As a result, the PCT plan to significantly reduce investment in areas such as obesity prevention, smoking cessation, 24/7 palliative care support workers, and services to support homeless people, which it admitted is likely to result in ‘continued inappropriate usage of A&E services'.

IAPT funding is also threatened, and the cuts could also mean an ‘inability to comply with some elements of NICE Improving Outcomes Guidance for cancer services.'

Dr Andrew Dearden, a GP in Cardiff and chair of the BMA's Welsh Council, warned some trusts were looking at slashing budgets by up to 20%. ‘The sort of figures I'm hearing about are truly terrifying,' he said.

Dr Andrew Dearden