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Health groups placed in special measures in east Kent

By Paul Francis

Four GP health organisations in east Kent have been placed in special measures after running up deficits of more than £30 million.

Financial problems are identified as one of the main reasons for NHS England’s intervention in the four clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), where doctors commission services for patients in their areas.

The move is also related to the quality of services provided by the organisations, which operate under the East Kent CCG banner.

GPs work in CCGs to commission services for patients in their areas. Stock picture
GPs work in CCGs to commission services for patients in their areas. Stock picture

Ashford CCG reported a £13m deficit and South East Coast CCG had a £7.3m deficit.

Meanwhile, Canterbury and Coastal CCG ended the year in the red to the tune of £9.5m.

The three were rated inadequate while the Thanet CCG was rated as “requiring improvement” despite breaking even.

Yet Thanet was still placed in special measures with its neighbours because it shares the same challenges.

The special measures decision is likely to cause concern the groups will cut or restrict some treatments.

But health chiefs say the move represented an opportunity.

In a statement, East Kent CCG managing director Caroline Selkirk said: “We see being placed in ‘special measures’ as an opportunity to develop a shared approach to the challenges we face, both as CCGs and with our partners, and to transform the way we look after frail older people and people with complex health and care needs.”

She said that the NHS across east Kent was “financially challenged.”

“We see being placed in ‘special measures’ as an opportunity to develop a shared approach to the challenges we face..." - Caroline Selkirk, East Kent Clinical Commissioning Group

It was also missing a number of key national targets for patient care, including the number of people waiting more than four hours in the hospitals’ emergency departments to be admitted, transferred or discharged.

“It is clear the clinical commissioning groups need to work much more closely together to resolve these issues,” she said.

“This will see people getting far more joined-up care resulting in less time in hospital beds and will enable hospital staff to deliver the specialist care and treatment only they can provide.”

“We have already created a shared management team, developed a shared financial recovery plan, and have started to strengthen and streamline the way we work.”

“These changes will help us move at pace to deliver the best achievable health and healthcare for local people, and make better use of our staff and funds.”

Glenn Douglas, the accountable officer for the CCGs, said: “We can’t solve all of the problems until there is a strategic decision but there is a lot that we can do.”

Campaign group CHEK - Concern for Health in East Kent - said it was worried that NHS England would intervene to ensure deficits were reined in by ordering GPs to halt some services.

“Our biggest concern has always been that patient care comes first and we should not be reducing care as a way of keeping costs under control,” said spokesman Ken Rogers.

“If decisions come down from above, it will do without necessarily taking into account local demands.”

The move could also further delay consultation on a wider re-organisation of the NHS in Kent under the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).

That is a five-year blueprint for health care across the county.

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