St Helen’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has proposed suspending all non-urgent GP referrals for four months over winter as part of its financial recovery plan.
The CCG, which was rated as ‘inadequate’ by NHS England, is looking to stop GPs from referring patients for non-urgent procedures at local hospitals for a “maximum four month period”.
The CCG noted that hospital referrals are a significant financial burden for the CCG and the four-month “pause” will allow “hospitals to concentrate on treating patients who require urgent referrals, suspected cancer and referrals for sick children”.
The move will also reduce the risk of operations being cancelled during winter and “it will support hospitals during the busy winter period when there is a marked increase in patients requiring urgent treatment”.
St Helen’s CCG is facing a £12.5 million funding gap over the coming year after a £3 million overspend last year.
The two-year recovery plan also proposes suspending the provision of gluten-free foods, specialist fertility services to women under 37 and over the counter medication for short-term and self limiting conditions like such as painkillers, cough and cold remedies, antihistamines and some skin conditions.
Geoffrey Appleton, lay chair of the CCG admitted the proposals “will not be popular”.
He said: We would prefer not to be in this position but we are by no means alone as an increasing number of CCG’s are reporting similar financial challenges.”
Appleton continued: “There are unavoidable costs such as emergency healthcare, primary care services (your GP and pharmacist) and treatment for cancer and long-term conditions (the equivalent of your rent or mortgage, utility bills and food) which the majority of patients would expect us to provide.
“Although we are trying to make as many efficiency savings as we can (buying the same or similar services for less and reducing waste), our funding gap is so large we know these measures alone will not bring a resolution and we are faced with the prospect of proposing to suspend, reduce or withdraw certain services.
“We recognise these proposals will not be popular but we will be involving those, who want to have their say, in the discussions and we welcome your thoughts about how we should be making cost savings.”