‘Doing nothing’ could lead to deficit of nearly £500 million

Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General Campaign
Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General Campaign
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Chairman of Keep the Horton General Keith Strangwood said there had been a change of tone from the CCG in relation to cuts to health services in the county.

At the meeting of the joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) on Thursday, committee members were told how budget pressures faced by local NHS services had led to the drawing up of the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West (BOB) Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

Clinical commissioning groups across the three counties have been working together to change the way NHS services are delivered.

Stuart Bell, chief executive of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said the local health service could not continue as it always had done due to pressures on the workforce.

He said: “Some of the challenges are around money. If we do nothing we will have a deficit of something like £500 million within the next few years so we have to tackle the financial issues.”

Councillor Kevin Bulmer asked if the BOB as a whole was going out to consultation and expressed concern when he was told by Mr Bell it wasn’t.

The committee heard larger services, such as cancer care, are included in the BOB STP, and will be dealt with over county borders.

David Smith, STP lead and chief executive of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Oxfordshire is not big enough to manage and deliver these services on its own, which is one of the purposes of the STP.”

Surinder Dhesi, county councillor for Banbury Hardwick, said the plans in the STP were based on having adequate staff and there were other ways of saving money.

“For example equipment such as walking frames are not taken back to hospital. You can sanitise them and use them again. Hospital equipment is thrown away and that is a waste of health resources. You can also have less agency staff and make more staff permanent,” she said.

Mr Smith said: “There is £2.5 billion total spend a year across the area. The money we get is not going up fast enough, not keeping pace with the level of demand. If we do nothing, we will have a £479 million deficit.”

He added if the CCG did everything councillor Dhesi suggested, it would still not save enough money. “It is an enormous challenge for the system, but that is the system. Parts of the system are not delivering the care and quality standards it should be. It is painful and people are not going to like it, but it is what we have to do.”

Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, Mr Strangwood said there had been a change of tone from Mr Smith. He said: “Up to this point he’s been saying it is not about the money, it is about transformation. But at the St Mary’s Church event he more or less said they had to manage with the money they had. And at the HOSC, he mentioned that part of the plan is pain.

“But the pain will be in North Oxfordshire.”