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PBC savings figures not all they seemed

I am writing about your recent article ‘PBC trailblazers burning a path’.

It said GPs in NHS Northamptonshire had commissioned ‘34 projects, and delivered £12.6m in savings since 2007′. I wondered where this £12.6m had been saved and which schemes were the most successful. I asked the PCT how the savings were calculated and if there was a list of the 34 projects with savings.

The response was: ‘Pulse requested information through the Freedom of Information Act and asked for a total of all the underspends covering 2007/8, 2008/9 and 2009/10. This is where the £12.6m figure has come from. This totals purely the underspending practices and excludes the overspending practices in all three years and is specifically just for the activity-based budget element of a practice PBC budget.’

The Pulse article gives the impression that NHS Northamptonshire has delivered £12.6m in savings since 2007 but the PCT response clarifies that this was not the case. Savings were not linked to business cases and were fictitious since overspends significantly outweighed the underspends, leading to an overall deficit for all three years.

It seems NHS Northamptonshire has misinterpreted your FOI request. I wonder how many other PCTs have? I am concerned that inaccurate information is misleading those trying to establish GP consortia and hides an even bleaker picture of PBC.

Response to: NHS Northamptonshire: ‘We’ve delivered over two dozen projects’

From Stephen Blackman, Practice Director, Earls Barton Medical Centre, Northamptonshire

Editor’s reply

Your letter is interesting and worrying. Our FOI response asked what overall savings, if any, PCTs had been able to identify through PBC, and of course expected a figure for net savings.

NHS Northamptonshire appears to have interpreted our request in a deliberately misleading manner.

It is unlikely that many other PCTs have done the same, as only 17 of 100 trusts were able to demonstrate any savings at all.