High-cost drugs and mental health services among areas putting drain on NHS budget in Northumberland

High-cost drugs and mental health provision are two of the areas where the NHS budget in Northumberland is currently under pressure.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 5:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 6:06 pm
Stock picture from Pixabay

Presenting the latest finance update to a meeting of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body, the chief finance officer Jon Connolly said: “Month five is when we have enough information to have a bit more certainty about how the year’s going to play out.

“The overall message is the CCG remains on target to deliver its financial plan.”

The CCG has a control total deficit of £4million for 2019-20 and, as with the previous financial year, if it can demonstrate that it is on track to achieve that, it will qualify for a one-off funding allocation of £4million.

This will enable the CCG to report a break-even position for the year and maintain the same level of historic debt that it started the financial year with – £57.6million.

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Setting out the main variances with the plan, Mr Connolly said: “These are not right or wrong, it’s just the difference between where we started and how it’s panning out.”

He added: “It’s manageable and the areas of pressure are where we identified risk.”

Among these are an overspend of almost £1million in the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust contract for high-cost drugs, which has been growing at a higher rate than planned.

“With hindsight, we probably underestimated the increase in costs,” Mr Connolly said.

There’s also a forecast overspend of £1million in mental healthcare, which is split fairly evenly between packages for people being moved from inpatient care to care in the community and temporary placement costs for learning disability patients, in the wake of the abuse scandal at Whorlton Hall in County Durham.

Elsewhere, a national announcement on an expected increase in the price of what are known as category M drugs from August has led to a predicted overspend of more than £850,000, but there is an underspend of more than £400,000 forecast in the CCG’s running costs.