IVF treatment could be withdrawn from health services in Croydon as one cut-back to balance the books of the under pressure local clinical commissioning group (CCG), was yesterday placed under “special measures” by Jeremy Hunt’s [sic] Department of Health.
As Inside Croydon was first to report yesterday, the NHS Trust which runs Mayday and Purley hospitals and the Croydon CCG, which oversees the borough’s 58 GP practices, are among five NHS trusts and nine CCGs across England which have been placed in a form of financial intensive care.
Special measures are being introduced “where there is a failure to meet the financial discipline expected”. Health department managers will be visiting the CCG and Trust to inspect financial, clinical and staffing arrangements and agree a detailed strategic plan. The outcome seems inevitable: already under-funded services locally look certain to have even more money stripped from them.
The financial difficulties of the CCG were evident at Croydon Council’s health scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, although on the council podcast, the councillors present seemed blissfully unaware that the government was about to run out of patience with the continuing financial deficits in Croydon’s NHS.
Croydon’s health service providers were forced to borrow £26.4 million from the Department for Health earlier this year after posting a deficit of £36.4 million in 2015-2016, £10 million worse than it forecast, after spending on temporary staff went over-budget by £8 million.
Mayday – Croydon “University” Hospital – has struggled for years to recruit full-time nursing staff and doctors, since it is just outside the London Weighting area, where public service employees get significantly better pay. Mayday is forced to fill its vacancies with more expensive agency staff.
Croydon CCG recorded a deficit of £10.8 million. In the first set of annual ratings for CCGs from the Department of Health, also published yesterday, Croydon was given an overall rating of “requires improvement”; the other eight CCGs across the country that have been put in special measures are all rated “inadequate”.
Under the five headings on which the report is based, Croydon was given a “good” rating on its leadership, and “requires improvement” for its performance. It was only under the financial category that it was rated as “inadequate”, although health professionals working in Croydon have long suggested that “inadequate” is actually the accurate description of the NHS’s funding of the area.
In a statement issued yesterday, Dr Anthony Brzezicki, the chair of Croydon CCG, said, “We have the full support of our GP membership and we are committed to finding new ways to make savings and efficiencies to deliver our statutory requirement to live within our means. We need to focus our resources where we can have the biggest impact on people’s health and well-being whilst continuing to improve the quality of local services.”
This underlines the real possibility of whole services being withdrawn in the area, which would see Croydon residents the losers in a form of NHS post code lottery.
IVF treatment is already being considered as an option to be withdrawn to save money, as raised at Tuesday’s council meeting by Stephen Warren, the head of procurement at Croydon CCG.
According to the NHS, one cycle of IVF treatment – in vitro fertilisation – for a family can cost at least £5,000 with private practitioners.
Warren also warned that equality of care for those with mental ill-health was delayed by unexpected high demand at the Bethlem centre.
During the meeting, Darren Morgan, from the Croydon Healthwatch watchdog, reported a breakdown in GP services in South Norwood, citing examples of patients being told that they were 48th in a telephone queue as they sought to make an appointment to see a doctor. In some instances, patients were told by their GP practice to go to the local hospital’s A&E department, rather than come to a South Norwood GP surgery.
Such excess of demand for medical services over what is provided is unlikely to vanish overnight, even with the help of Hunt’s [sic] NHS Improvement teams.
Yesterday, Dr Brzezicki said, “Since Croydon CCG was established, we have been working to turn around the hugely challenging deficit we inherited. The local health service has been historically underfunded which has also contributed to our financial position.”
Croydon CCG has made budget savings of £72 million over the past five years. “We have consistently met our financial targets whilst improving quality and performance each year,” Brzezicki said.
“We are under no illusions that this year will be our greatest challenge yet.”
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