Health commissioners in Northumberland facing up to £575k budget pressures

Northumberland's budget for GPs and other primary healthcare services could be short by almost £600,000 this year.

Assurances were given that any shortfall would not present a risk to services.
Assurances were given that any shortfall would not present a risk to services.

However, health bosses gave assurances that any shortfall would not present any risk to services.

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is responsible for commissioning the county’s healthcare and the body’s primary care committee discussed its financial position at its meeting on Monday (May 20).

For the current financial year, Northumberland’s delegated allocation for primary care (patients’ first point of contact such as GPs and pharmacies) is £46.1million – an increase of around two-and-a-half per cent.

However, despite this rise on last year’s budget, the CCG is predicting that it may have a £575,000 shortfall in 2019-20.

A report explains that several factors, including national changes to the GP contract and £1.5million being allocated for the new primary care networks, ‘result in a potential pressure of £575,000 against the delegated allocation for 2019-20 and the CCG needs further work to be done in order to manage this pressure this year and recurrently beyond 2019-20’.

Presenting the report, Neil Lightley, a finance manager at NHS England, said: “It’s a big figure, it’s a significant figure, but my assumption is that it will come down in year.”

Another key impact was the sizeable sum that was ‘top-sliced’ by the NHS nationally to fund the new GP indemnity scheme and which represented a reduction of £1.4million from Northumberland’s original delegated allocation.

The meeting heard that there are discussions taking place as Northumberland ‘has come out worse than other CCGs and been hit hard by the indemnity particularly’, according to Karen Bower, lay governor for corporate finance.

The CCG’s lay chairman, Janet Guy, said that it’s ‘a bit watch this space at the moment’.

“We are not just having a moan, we have come out particularly badly,” she added.

David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, which is the independent champion for patients, asked what this could mean in terms of service provision.

Jon Connolly, the CCG’s chief finance officer, said: “It won’t present any risk to services.”

The CCG has a budget but also obligations, he added, and ‘we will meet those obligations’.

The meeting also heard that the CCG’s final budget position for the 2018-19 financial year was an underspend of £68,000.

Within the budget, there were areas which saw significant overspends, related to the likes of national GP contract changes (£360,000) and locum costs (£160,000).

However, there were also hefty underspends elsewhere, for example, of £237,000 on minor surgery and £533,000 on premises cost reimbursement, the latter due to an additional allocation from NHS England during the year.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service