Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Derbyshire NHS Chief Faces Scrutiny Over Cuts

A regional NHS finance chief is due to undergo close scrutiny by the county council.

Paul Briddock, director of finance for NHS England in the North Midlands, will answer questions on the proposed £51 million cuts to health services in Derbyshire.

The health scrutiny committee at Derbyshire County Council will quiz him at a meeting on Monday, November 26 from 2pm.

In the past few months, the committee has scrutinised the chief executive of the Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Groups, Dr Chris Clayton, on several occasions.

Much of those debates, attended by dozens of passionate NHS campaigners, have focused on the proposed cuts in discretionary grants to voluntary organisations.

The county council, at its last health scrutiny meeting in October, urged the CCGs to postpone “any significant changes” to NHS services in Derbyshire until after a formal merger of the four organisations.

Voluntary organisations, such as Community Concern Erewash and Age Concern Chesterfield, provide services free of charge for hundreds of vulnerable people in the county.

This includes befriending services, help with paperwork, meals-on-wheels and general assistance to allow people to remain in their own homes, and not in hospitals or care homes.

Plans had been afoot to scrap these discretionary grants to save £1.2 million over three years – £300,000 per year.

Other funding for voluntary groups would remain and would total £8.5 million, out of a budget of £1.6 billion per year.

Campaigners and members of staff within the voluntary sector have voiced their concerns at the proposed cuts, stating that the value for money provided by these charities outweighs the amount which could be saved by cutting their grants.

The cuts have been described as “short-sighted” as they would have a “long-term impact”.

In September, at a meeting of the four Derbyshire CCGs, the decision was made to delay a decision on the grant cuts until next year.

This falls alongside a review of beds in the county.

It had been proposed to reduce the number of hospital beds by 535, but this decision will now be made next year, after a full review by an independent expert, due to be concluded by March 31.

Healthcare beds are split into four main categories: a hospital bed such as in A&E; Pathway Three, which is a community hospital bed; Pathway Two, which is in a care or nursing home; and Pathway One, which is at a patient’s home but with assistance.

Dr Clayton confirmed in September, at a public meeting hosted by Erewash MP Maggie Throup, that a review was under way and that health services in the county overused community hospital beds (Pathway Three).

The four Derbyshire CCGs currently face an uphill struggle to make £51 million in cuts by April next year – out of a total deficit of £95 million – to bring this shortfall down to £44 million.

If the CCGs meet this saving target, the remaining £44 million will be written off via a one-off grant from the Commissioner Sustainability Funds, but, if they do not, they must make the remaining cuts.

Next year, it is expected that the CCGs will face further financial difficulties, with cuts of around £72 million – ranging from four to five percent of the £1.6 billion budget – on the cards.

So far, the CCGs have saved around a third of the £51 million mandated cuts.

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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