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CCG drops plan to save money by postponing outpatient appointments

A CCG in the East Midlands has dropped plans to ban independent NHS providers from treating new outpatients for two months to balance its books.

A letter, leaked to Pulse, asked independent sector providers of NHS services to put on hold booking in non-urgent outpatient appointments on referral from GPs in the NHS North Derbyshire CCG area until 1 April.

But, when approached by Pulse and the BBC, the CCG said it had reviewed the plans – which would have affected approximately 7% of referrals – and decided to rescind the letter.

According to the letter, dated 17 January, the ban was due to affect ‘new outpatient appointments and elective outpatient, daycase and inpatient elective procedures’ but ‘exclude patients requiring an urgent referral (i.e. two-week appointments for suspected cancer) who should be managed in line with existing procedures’.

The letter had said that ‘no referrals received on or after 13 February 2017 for a routine new consultant/multi-disciplinary outpatient appointment can be allocated an appointment to attend a consultation before 1 April 2017’, while ‘no patients listed for a routine elective inpatient, daycase or outpatient procedure on or after the date of this letter can be treated prior to 1 April 2017’.

NHS North Derbyshire CCG chief officer Steve Allinson said: ‘In looking to manage our financial position in 2016/17, we asked independent sector providers, who generally have shorter waiting times, to work to the same waiting time standard for all routine outpatient appointments and elective surgery as our other NHS providers.

‘We have since withdrawn this proposal, following a review of our plans.’ 

Asked whether the plan was designed to push the CCG’s bill for the appointments into the next financial year, a spokesperson added: ‘Yes, it would have delayed some appointments till April, although still meeting NHS waiting time standards, but we have decided not to go ahead with his particular approach.’