West Norfolk deficit will hit other parts of the health system, says Jeremy Hunt

Health minister Jeremy Hunt during his visit to Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Health minister Jeremy Hunt during his visit to Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt today warned that a £10m deficit at a commissioning group in west Norfolk could impact on other areas of the health service.

Speaking at a visit to the region's mental health trust Mr Hunt said he kept a keen eye on the finances of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and that when one was in deficit it affected other areas.

He said: 'We do monitor [the finances] very carefully and the truth is the funding in the NHS is decided on a per patient basis and it's very fair.

'So if someone goes into deficit in one area they end up taking money away from another area that could have used it or taking it from part of the NHS like mental health.

'So it's very important that everyone keeps to their budgets because it's not fair on other parts of the country.

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'But what happens when CCGs have financial difficulties is we step in and support them to get things back on track. Everyone's funding is going up so it's not in a context of people's budgets ever being cut but we just need to contain the pace that the budgets go up in a way that's fair for everyone.'

His comments come as it was revealed yesterday that commissioners could be stripped of their powers in the £10m deficit is not solved.

Writing to GPs West Norfolk CCG chairman Dr Paul Williams described the situation as 'dire'.

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A CCG spokesman said the organisation was 'immensely disappointed to find itself heading towards a significant overspend'.

He stressed the money had all been spent on patient care and management were working hard to fix the situation.

The spokesman added: 'It is vital to stress this is not just about GP practices. Every part of the NHS must make financial savings and efficiencies, and the CCG has a duty to remain within its budget.

'West Norfolk takes a responsible approach to this. We have put in place transformations that make savings and also improve patient care, such as a virtual ward and care home matrons to keep people safe and well in their homes, and reducing the use of expensive medicines when there are equally effective and less expensive versions.'

Mr Hunt visited Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) today, as well as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

At NSFT he spoke to frontline staff about his focus on patient safety and hear firsthand about their passion for patient safety and improvements. He was joined by professor Tim Kendall, NHS England's national clinical director for mental health.

Julie Cave, NSFT chief executive, said: 'Patient safety is central to the trust and we were delighted to welcome the secretary of state and Professor Kendall and for them to hear directly from staff about the progress we are making to continue to improve our services.

'We were pleased to have the opportunity to speak to him about our services, to discuss the challenges we are all facing in mental health. It was also a good opportunity for him to see firsthand how dedicated our staff are in rising to meet that challenge for the benefit of our service users.

'It was very encouraging to hear Mr Hunt's positive comments about our work and to hear him express his thanks to staff for their hard work and dedication.'

• For the full interview see tomorrow's EDP.

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