Hartlepool health trust spending ‘paused’amid £7.1m blackhole fears

The Hartlepool and Stockton CCG is facing a �7.1m funding shortfall.
The Hartlepool and Stockton CCG is facing a �7.1m funding shortfall.

Forecasts of a £7.1m black hole at a health trust has led to new schemes being “paused”.

Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (HAST CCG) – the body which buys in services for GPs and some hospital procedures in the two towns – faces a £7.1m shortfall in March 2019.

This has sparked health leaders to “pause uncommitted investments” for next year to “mitigate financial pressures”.

Among the services to be paused until 2019/20 in Hartlepool and Stockton are a GP and Nurse Career Start Programme and a premium for “Personal Medical Services” (PMS) contracts at GPs.

Darlington CCG has seen the PMS premiums delayed until 2019/20 and pushed back funding for its “transformation scheme”.

A reassessment of the paused schemes will be done in December.

Health leaders also discussed the figures for Darlington CCG primary care commissioning group, which is also facing a £1.5m shortfall.

A report prepared for the meeting added: “Due to the very challenging financial position of both CCGs in 2017/18, some very difficult measures were introduced to try and ensure financial balance.

“Although these measures were successful in 2017/18, the financial position at September 2018 is forecasting a year-end financial gap of £7.1m for HAST and £1.5m for Darlington.

“Unlike last year, it is not anticipated that the plans currently in place will secure the predicted savings to ensure financial balance.”

Karen Hawkins, from HAST CCG, said all practices across the town had been advised of the “suspension of uncommitted investments”.

She added they’d been assured those services already bought in would still come but some would be postponed.

“There has been significant investment within primary care – it’s not that there hasn’t been investment in 2018/19,” she added.

Members were keen to stress this was a “delay” and not a “disinvestment” and other existing health contracts would carry on.

Nicola Bailey, Chief Officer on behalf of both CCGs, said: “We don’t anticipate that there will be any impact on existing services which are commissioned by the CCG or on staff this year.”

He said the forecast financial gap would materialise at the end of this financial year in March 2019 if they made no changes to current plans for expenditure for the remainder of the year.

She added: “To mitigate against this risk we have reviewed all uncommitted investments on an individual basis, and made the difficult decision to pause a number of schemes, including some schemes in primary care, with a view to reinvesting should the financial position improve by December 2018.

“Primary care includes general practice, community pharmacy, dental, and optometry (eye health) services.

“In December, NHS England will issue CCGs with guidance and confirmation of funding for next year to inform the development of our commissioning plans.

“As the NHS continues to face unprecedented levels of financial challenge we will seek to continue to deliver the best possible care for our population however there may be more difficult decisions ahead.”

Alex Metcalfe , Local Democracy Reporting Service