NHS South West Essex has discussed the significant financial challenges that it is facing, and the financial recovery plan that it has put in place to overcome them, at its public Board meeting.
All primary care trusts have a statutory duty not to exceed their annual revenue budget, which is allocated by the Department of Health. If primary care trusts do overspend, they are required to repay the money out of the following year’s budget.
Jackie Brown, Director of Finance for NHS South West Essex, says: “The resources available to us for this financial year amounted to just over £640m. At the end of month nine (December), our figures showed that we had overspent by around £8.5m.
“While this is just over 1% of our overall budget, we recognise the seriousness of this and are taking steps to address it. We are still working towards a breakeven position, but know that this will be a tall order.
“I can reassure patients in South West Essex that we will continue to invest in core frontline services and that their health needs will not be compromised.”
The primary care trust has undertaken a rigorous assessment of the current financial situation – locally, regionally and nationally – and begun to address this with strict budget controls, particularly on administrative and management costs.
Pam Court, chief executive, is fully committed to leading the turnaround process with the support of a team which is dedicated to balancing the books by the end of March.
One of the significant areas of overspend is on the services that the primary care trust buys from hospitals, which have seen an increase in activity over this financial year. Around 40% of NHS South West Essex’s budget is being spent across all of our hospitals. The demand for emergency care, generated by the cold weather, has contributed to the increasing spend, as well as referrals by GPs, and the need for patients to be seen within 18 weeks of a referral from their GP for treatment.
Going forward, the backbone of our strategic plan is to provide services closer to people’s homes and manage their conditions with the support of community teams so they don’t have to go to hospital unnecessarily.
There are a number of conditions that can, and should, be managed in the community such as diabetes or rehabilitation after surgery or a stroke, and we are working with patients to help them manage a range of long-term conditions – such as COPD (respiratory condition)– so that they don’t reach crisis point and need admitting to hospital.
Jackie adds: “NHS South West Essex constantly reviews its financial performance and has already identified areas where it can increase value for money and improve the experiences of patients by working more efficiently and innovatively. For example, we have reviewed diabetes and DVT pathways this year, and constantly review our medicine prescribing so that GPs prescribe the cheapest brand and reduce waste by prescribing just the right amount of medication so unwanted medicines don’t get thrown away.”
“Patients can play their part too. While the vast majority of NHS services are free to the patient at the point of delivery, there is, of course, a cost attached to them. And that cost is met by taxpayers’ money.
“The average cost of removing a patient’s tonsils as a day case is more than £900. The average GP appointment costs around £50, and that’s before they prescribe anything. A planned hip replacement can cost around £6,000. If medicine is wasted, people don’t show up for their appointment, or they go to A&E unnecessarily, they are throwing money away.
“We’ve all got a part to play in using the NHS appropriately, and the Board of NHS South West Essex is totally committed to doing everything within its power to achieve the best possible outcome.”