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Survey suggests half of CCGs will inherit debts

CCGs are facing a dire financial future with half braced to inherit a financial deficit from their PCTs, findings from a new survey suggest.

 Some 52% of CCGs said they would inherit a deficit from their PCT with a further 26% saying they didn’t yet know whether they would or not, the survey of National Association of Primary Care members carried out by law firm Hempsons showed.

 The survey also revealed that almost half of those questioned (47%) said their CCG was not being allowed to determine its own size.

 Commenting on the NAPC survey of 31 CCGs, Ross Clark, a partner at Hempsons said: ‘This is a real concern as any inherited deficit will, from day one, reduce the amount a CCG has available to commission healthcare services in its area. 

 ‘Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has made it clear that CCGs would inherit any deficit incurred from 1 April 2011, but this was necessary to ensure that PCTs and CCGs did not have a blank cheque ahead of formal authorisation.  However, that position was based on one very important assumption: that CCGs were sitting alongside their PCT and agreeing budgetary and commissioning decisions with them.  That has clearly not happened in the majority of cases and so many CCGs will be inheriting a deficit that is not of their own making and, more worryingly, has not yet been ascertained. 

 ‘Another important aspect of this is how transfers of staff from PCTs to either CCGs or commissioning support units are played out.  CCGs will have to be careful that PCTs are not making termination or redundancy payments (which are not strictly necessary as the employment of staff will transfer automatically to the CCG or CSU under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations).  Excessive payouts to PCT staff would further increase any existing deficit.’

He added that the finding that a quarter of CCGs didn´t know whether they would inherit a deficit was also of great concern: ‘This indicates that some  – perhaps many – CCGs are not yet at a stage where they have sat down with their PCT and determined whether a deficit exists.

‘This response indicates that, in many cases, this is not happening and that must be a serious concern for those CCGs.’

Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance said: ‘This an extremely gloomy prospect. What it means is that at least half of CCGs still won´t have confidence in what they can commission. It´s worrying in terms of making it progressively more difficult to make savings. PCTs should not be passing on debts and I can only hope the pessimism is not justified and that CCGs won´t be set up to fail by being made to inherit deficits.’