Doctors warn of impacts on patients posed by Suffolk's £13m health budget shortfall
PUBLISHED: 12:01 01 July 2016
Doctors have warned that a multimillion pound hole in Suffolk's health budget could bring about a more "chaotic" service with patients denied drugs and treatments.
Health commissioners have today highlighted a “potentially serious” shortfall of £13 million this financial year as they struggle to cope with an ageing population.
The announcement from the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) is described as the “most difficult financial position ever experienced” by the two organisations.
Doctors said they may have to stop prescribing some drugs to meet the savings, while warning of possible staff cuts.
In north east Essex, where the CCG has faced similar financial difficulties, smokers and overweight people have been refused some treatments to make savings. In vitro fertilisation treatment and vasectomies have also been cut.
The Suffolk CCGs said while they faced “major challenges” they were not in debt and no decisions had been taken about where savings would be made.
However, Matt Piccaver, a doctor at Glemsford surgery in Sudbury, said that although “the NHS costs what it costs and should be funded accordingly” the two areas where spending is highest are drugs and people “and that’s what will end up being cut”.
“I’m not happy about either of those areas being cut - it makes things more dangerous and unsafe,” he added.
Dr Piccaver said there was “little slack in the system” and suggested people might have to pay, highlighting prescriptions of paracetamol, antihistamines and cough syrups as a possible examples that could be cut.
Billy McKee, of Walton surgery in Felixstowe, said providers would have to “tighten their belts” but it would not be “slash and burn”.
He said many of the costs were outside of the CCGs’ control, such as the increasing price of drugs, which had created “huge problems”.
Suffolk GP Federation chairman, Paul Driscoll said the “easy savings” had already been addressed and any future cuts were likely to involve hospitals, which account for the “lion’s share” of the CCGs’ budget.
Simon Sherwood, a Clacton GP, yesterday quit the profession because of the financial problems in north east Essex.
“Services are becoming more chaotic and fragmented as a result,” he warned.
Labour’s health spokeswoman in Suffolk, Sarah Adams, said the party had previously highlighted failings in the system, such as its fragmented approach to delivering social care to vulnerable people.
“Any further cuts in services or inability to deliver in at current levels will be to the detriment of large numbers of people,” she added.
The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said services were already underfunded and could not cope with growing demand. “That said, we shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul – the NHS needs to be funded properly,” a spokesman added.
Ed Garratt, the CCGs’ chief officer stressed their commitment to commissioning “safe, high quality health care” and invited people to have their say on the future of the service. He said the CCGs had already made savings caring for patients at home and by working in partnership with other organisations.
Healthwatch Suffolk praised the CCGs for being “upfront” about their finances while acknowledging the concerns people might have.
Chief executive Andy Yacoub said Healthwatch would work to ensure the CCGs get the best from consulting people who receive the services they fund,
“It is only through such a process that we can ensure our local services are shaped by the public and the needs of people who use them,” he added.
People can sign up to receive updates from the CCGs from their websites.