Overspending will lead to further NHS service cuts in Wakefield

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Further cuts are likely to be made to NHS services in Wakefield, after health bosses overspent their budget by millions.

Chiefs at Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) made “fundamental errors” in drawing up plans for major savings, a report has said.

The analysis of its failings by an independent consultancy warned that urgent action is needed to improve its finances.

The CCG said that the overspend was due to treating record numbers of patients, which had not been forecasted. It now has to make more than £16m worth of savings over the next year.

At a meeting of its board yesterday, the CCG’s finance director Jonathan Webb said that “difficult choices” would have to be made.

He added that a 3.4 per cent boost to NHS funding, announced by the government last week, would not be enough to protect inefficient services.

Mr Webb said: “What we don’t know is how the 3.4 per average increase (extra cash pledged by the government) will pay out to CCGs.

“This isn’t going to get us out of the woods. We will still have difficult choices to make as a CCG.

“We will have to be tough on services that are not of sufficient quality. We will look to decommission services where appropriate.”

The report on the failings, by PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) said that there were “fundamental errors in the CCG’s planning process” and the problems were made worse by a dispute with local hospital bosses over savings.

It added that the group was hampered by a shortage of senior management expertise and called on officials to “urgently seek to strengthen financial leadership”.

Among measures already put in place is the downgrade of Pontefract’s hospital to an urgent care centre staffed by GPs which is due to save £1.4m in 2018-19.

The CCG had also planned to close Castleford’s sexual health clinic earlier this year, but were forced to back down after a patient outcry.

The CCG currently covers 38 GP surgeries, serving some 360,000 patients across the district.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said that financial troubles were affecting health authorities across the UK, but that the local CCG needed to take action quickly.

She said: “Two thirds of CCGs in England are struggling to control a deficit this year, for the first time ever.

“Wakefield CCG needs urgently to recruit a senior financial officer who can control its financial position and avoid the risk of overspending again this year.”