New target set for savings
HERTFORDSHIRE primary care trusts must save £90m – eight per cent of their budget – to achieve financial balance. But the Department of Health has deemed this unachievable and has reduced the target savings for the East and North Hertfordshire PCT and the
HERTFORDSHIRE primary care trusts must save £90m - eight per cent of their budget - to achieve financial balance.
But the Department of Health has deemed this unachievable and has reduced the target savings for the East and North Hertfordshire PCT and the West Hertfordshire PCT to £56m by the end of the financial year.
This means the two PCTs can overspend by a combined total of £34m - £17m each.
But the latest forecast position shows each PCT has already overspent by £24m.
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A spokesman for the PCTs said: "The two new primary care trusts in Hertfordshire inherited the position of the eight 'old' Hertfordshire PCTs. Their deficit, to the end of March 2006, was £47m.
"Like many other PCTs across the country, we have a range of pressures on our budget, including an initial reduction in our 2006/07 allocations to cover the £47m overspend and a further reduction of £37m to cover the acute trusts' deficits from 2005/06."
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She added: "It is now imperative that we make further immediate savings during the last four months of the financial year if we are to meet this year's financial plan agreed with the Department of Health."
One way the PCTs intend to do this is to cut funding to the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust by between £1m and £4m.
When The Comet asked how they propose to make these savings, the spokesman for the PCTs said: "New techniques, new drugs and new technologies are all changing the way healthcare is delivered.
"Some of the activity that was historically undertaken in acute hospitals can now be more appropriately delivered in local settings where care can be provided closer to peoples' homes.
"In addition, a small proportion of the money that may have traditionally come into Hertford-shire hospitals could go elsewhere as patients choose to attend a hospital outside the county."
When The Comet asked if financial issues are being put before patient care and safety, the spokesman for the PCTs said: "Not at all. We have asked GPs for their support to prescribe generic (non-brand name) drugs where clinically appropriate and to help us minimise medicine wastage.
"These are areas which will have minimal impact on patients and have the potential to make significant savings across Hertfordshire.
"We have also asked GPs to minimise the number of unnecessary outpatient appointments, particularly follow-up appointments and to follow local guidance on referring patients for treatments that have limited clinical benefits.
"It is our aim that all patients will continue to be seen within national waiting times and all
GP and consultant referrals marked as urgent will still be seen as quickly as possible in all specialities.
"These measures will not affect the care received by patients."
In conclusion, the spokesman said: "The PCTs face some difficult choices in order to keep within our spending limits.
"Failure to meet our financial targets will mean our financial allocation in 2007/08 will again be reduced and we are likely to face another year of extreme financial difficulty and uncer-tainty.
"We will continue to work with our colleagues in the acute trusts to seek ways to minimise the impact on the local health system in Hertfordshire.