‘Prepare for more NHS cuts’ say health bosses

Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143901009
Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143901009

Patients in Banburyshire and elsewhere in the county can expect to have less and less access to ‘non essential’ health service care.

Health bosses faced with shrinking budgets say they overspent by £2.4m in the first two months of the financial year.

They say it is because there has been extra pressure on the country’s A&E departments and increased demand for care.

And the only way they can prevent worse financial meltdown is to slam on the brakes in NHS service provision.

The news comes hard on the heels of last week’s report in the Banbury Guardian that vasectomies have been axed altogether in Oxfordshire outside the private system.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) new financial crisis comes as the organisation is in the middle of designing and implementing £200m cuts to Oxfordshire’s health system by 2020 to 2021.

It is this Oxfordshire ‘Transformation’ Plan that was responsible for decisions to permanently close 45 medical beds at the Horton along with making permanent the closure of consultant-led maternity and special care baby unit and downgrading intensive care.

Sue Boyce, press spokesman for the OCCG said in a statement: “The significant increase in demand for health care services in Oxfordshire is similar to that felt in other parts of the country.

“This increase in demand is higher than the increase in our funding.

“We have spent £2.4m more than planned in the first two months of the year. The main area where demand has increased is in urgent care.

“This includes A&E attendances, emergency admissions and same day or short stay urgent care, which contribute £2.1m to this overspend.

“While the CCG has a small contingency to use during the year, at this rate it will be all spent before we are half way through the year.

“As such if we do nothing, Oxfordshire’s NHS will be significantly overspent before the end of the year, which is not acceptable. The CCG has a statutory responsibility to live within the funding allocation given by NHS England.”

Gareth Kenworthy, director of finance at OCCG, said: “It is important we take action now to avoid slipping into a position from which it would be difficult to recover. A financial recovery plan is being developed to bring us back into balance before the year end.

“This plan requires the support of hospitals, GPs, community nurses, ambulance services and patients.

“The plan involves working with health providers in hospitals and primary care to carefully review where savings can be made as quickly as possible, without compromising safety and quality of services. This means some optional spending for non-essential services may be reduced or delayed.”

Keith Strangwood, chair of Keep the Horton General said: “We were told cutting the Horton’s consultant led maternity department would save £2.2m.

“How on earth is the system going to continue to make ‘savings’ of this magnitude. If the overspend is £2.4m in two months and everyone has to expect drastic reductions, what comes next?

“How do they stop people needing urgent care or A&E?

“This shows that the government must end this crazy financial attack on the NHS and start to pay what is necessary for CCGs to ensure patients are getting the emergency and routine care they need.”

Mr Strangwood said: “We warned in July, when they announced 17 routine operations would no longer be available on the NHS, it would be a slippery slope.

“Now the CCG seems to be admitting it is not getting enough money from the government to maintain services so we must prepare for more cuts to the NHS we pay for.

“This is resulting in a slimmed-down NHS, with essential services taken away from hospitals like the Horton leaving patients to bear the cost in travel and danger, to dig into their own pockets for routine operations or to suffer.”