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Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group faces budget deficit of £12m

By Paul Francis

Health chiefs in Ashford are facing a potential budget deficit of £12m this year, it has emerged.

The Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group, which is made up of GPs in the area, says its budget could be overspent by more than £20m if it fails to meet a savings target by the end of this financial year.

If the savings are not made, it could lead to intervention by NHS England.

The clinical commissioning group faces a shortfall of millions. Picture: Getty Images/Hemera
The clinical commissioning group faces a shortfall of millions. Picture: Getty Images/Hemera

The group insists the deficit does not mean cuts to patient care.

One reason for the deficit is the CCG has failed to meet its target to save money through what is known as the Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) programme.

That is a NHS initiative aimed at spending money more efficiently through collaboration. In Ashford’s case, only £400,000 has been saved against a target of £3.7m - a result described as poor.

A report to the group’s board last month stated the shortfall had been partly offset by savings made elsewhere.

However, finance chiefs say these were one-off sums - meaning there was “a significant danger of carrying forward a significant structural deficit into 2018-19.”

“The current position is that at best, the CCG will record a deficit of £9m that would increase to £12m if funding support from the Canterbury and Coastal CCG agreed at the beginning of the financial year was withdrawn.”

The shortfall could rise still further if the CCG - which began the financial year with a £7m overspend - fails to meet its savings target of £20m.

The report warns:“Failure to hit financial targets will lead to a qualification of the accounts and the potential mandating of a financial special measures regime on the CCG.”

Ashford is not alone in facing financial difficulties in East Kent. The Canterbury and Coastal CCG has a £4m deficit.

South Kent Coast CCG - covering Shepway, Dover and Deal - is showing a break even position but there is a risk it could be £4m in the red at the end of the financial year.

The shortfall could run into millions of pounds
The shortfall could run into millions of pounds

Only the Thanet CCG is currently financially stable and is predicting that it will have no deficit.

A statement issued on behalf of the east Kent CCGs said: “Currently health and care services are too fragmented which often wastes patients’ and carers’ time and NHS time and money and is frustrating for everyone. It also means we have a deficit in our accounts at the end of the financial year.”

“Despite this predicted deficit there will be no reduction in services to patients. We expect to be in a better financial position in the next financial year when our work to improve local care continues.”

CCGs are responsible for organising and providing care in their areas that meets the demands of the local population.

Health chiefs recently confirmed plans to bring together Kent and Medway’s eight GP groups, saying it will improve patient care and stop duplication.

The plan stops short of a full merger of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) but if approved, would involve the eight organisations jointly commissioning some healthcare services on a county-wide scale.

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