Pressure on health funding

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Northumberland’s healthcare commissioning group is ‘right on the limit of affordability’ due to rising costs not being matched by increased funding.

It may come to a point where decisions have to be made over whether to continue funding services which the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is not obliged to provide, said lay chairman Janet Guy, because ‘the Government is not funding the money they have told us we have to spend’.

At the June meeting of the CCG’s primary care commissioning committee, chief finance officer Ian Cameron reported that so far, the forecast for the 2018-19 financial year shows that the CCG will break even. However, he warned that ‘we are in a position where we are right on the limit of affordability’.

The CCG’s delegated primary care allocation for 2018/19, which pays for the likes of GPs, pharmacies and dentists, has risen by 1.75 per cent, or £800,000, to £44.5million.

However, national changes to the GP contract mean an additional cost of £900,000 to the CCG, while indemnity fees have also increased and, at any rate, the total budget for this of £330,000 is to be taken by the NHS England national team.

This means increased costs of £1.2million set against an extra £800,000 of funding, even before any additional pressures which may arise during the year, of which several possibilities have already been flagged up.

“That’s affordable just, but we haven’t been able to set aside some contingency reserves which traditionally we do,” said Mr Cameron. “Any pressures now will have to be met by the CCG’s main allocation.”

However, Northumberland’s CCG is not alone in facing these issues.

Wendy Stephens, primary care contracts manager for NHS England, said: “The increase in the global sum (payments to GPs) is affecting every CCG and every CCG is feeling the pinch. There’s no magic fund that can wing its way in – we have pressures too.”