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CCG backs down on plan to block all non-urgent GP referrals

CCG leaders have backed down on plans to suspend all referrals for non-urgent treatment after GP leaders said the proposal was ‘unacceptable’.

Pulse revealed that NHS St Helens CCG had floated the idea of pausing non-urgent referrals to local hospitals over the winter, as part of a range of cost-cutting measures to help balance its books.

But the CCG said it had decided to withdraw the option ‘in light of feedback to date’.

The GPC said it was pleased the CCG had listened to objections to the proposal, after warning it would lead to missed diagnoses of serious illness – and cost the health system more in the long-run.

In a press release the CCG said that ‘it is clear that one of the options, pausing non-urgent referrals, is not supported’.

The statement continued: ‘For this reason, we are withdrawing this option.’

The CCG’s consultation on other measures – including cutting back on prescriptions of over-the-counter medicines and gluten-free foods, as well as limiting access to IVF – will continue as planned until October.

NHS St Helens CCG lay chair Mr Geoffrey Appleton said: ‘Since the consultation began we have been listening to and considering all the feedback we have received regarding our proposals. As a result of this we have taken the decision to withdraw it from the consultation.

‘The financial challenges NHS St Helens CCG faces have not gone away and we will now be looking at other measures we can introduce to assist with the £12.5 million funding gap.

‘We will continue to work with our partners in the local health system to identify other opportunities where savings can be made. This will undoubtedly still involve some tough decisions about what is affordable but we will continue to consult with local people on our new proposals and listen to their views.’

Deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We’re pleased to see St Helens CCG has listened to concerns from the BMA and others and made the right decision.

‘This does not address the underlying problem, that investment in the NHS is not keeping up with demand.’

St Helens CCG is one of 26 CCGs recently rated ‘inadequate’ by NHS England.

The CCG is faced with finding £12.5m savings this year and a further £17.5m next year – as well as a standard 1% yearly budget surplus – in order to meet its statutory duty to achieve financial balance.