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'Taking food out of patients' mouths' - Norfolk health bosses criticised for bailout to Midlands trusts

PUBLISHED: 13:07 21 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:15 21 May 2019

Peter Franzen said services in Norfolk would suffer.  Photo: Angela Sharpe

Peter Franzen said services in Norfolk would suffer. Photo: Angela Sharpe

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Norfolk health bosses were criticised for "taking the food out of the mouths" of the county's sick in order to help fund a £5m bailout to a struggling system of Midlands health trusts.

The Aylsham Care Trust building, which hosted the meeting.   Picture: MARK BULLIMOREThe Aylsham Care Trust building, which hosted the meeting. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Governors of the NHS North Norfolk clinical commissioning group (NNCCG) were grilled over NHS England and NHS Improvement East of England's joint request that the region's five sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) contribute a total of £25m to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough STP in the Midlands - which is facing a deficit of £192m for the upcoming financial year.

The Norfolk and Waveney STP - made up of the county's health bodies including its five CCGs, three hospitals, ambulance service and mental health trust, is being asked to give a £5m contribution - on top of battling to reduce its own £96m deficit.

The scheme would see the NNCCG having to make up to a further £600,000 in savings to fund its part in the bailout.

At a governing body meeting of the NNCCG at the Aylsham Care Trust on Tuesday, May 21, lay member Peter Franzen said: "Can I ask how we think the public would feel about another £4-5m of cuts to a system that's already in debt and being asked to make savings to help another system?

"In other words, taking the food out of the mouths of people in Norfolk and Waveney and passing it over the border to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

"As a result of that, some services will suffer."

He added: "I'm not sure how we can do that without compromising services for patients."

Chief financial officer John Ingham said the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough trust was "£6m adrift" from its control targets.

He said: "As a system, it seems the sensible thing to do in Norfolk and Waveney to support them to find that money this year.

"The STP has been asked to support another system.

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"We're identifying £5m to support Cambridgeshire and Peterborough which will be repayable within three years."

Mr Ingham added: "We're still going through how to achieve that and will come back to governing body in the next month or so."

Lead director Helen Stratton added that some of the money would go to Addenbrooke's Hospital where some of Norfolk and Waveney's patients are regularly treated.

She added: "It's not completely without its use for our patients," which she described as a "rationalisation" and a "small comfort".

The draft financial plan for NNCCG, which did not cover the additional funding for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, sees the group face savings targets of £8.6m.

And the CCG's chief officer, Melanie Craig, noted in her report to the governors that the Norfolk and Waveney STP is seeking to deliver a "combined deficit of £16.4m", which would "represent a very significant improvement in terms of our system's financial performance".

She added: "Achieving this as a system would mean we would trigger the release of £69.9m in supplemental funding across Norfolk and Waveney's NHS.

"The importance of this is obvious."

Alex Stewart, chief executive of the county's patient watchdog Healthwatch Norfolk confirmed Healthwatch had been made aware of the request and said: "Whilst we understand that national NHS bodies operate on a regional basis we are concerned that the approach being taken is somewhat short-sighted and to the detriment of patients in Norfolk and Waveney, especially considering we already have three trusts in special measures.

"It places our local health system in an invidious position trying to make additional savings on an already overly pressurised budget.

"Ultimately, representation should be being made back to the Department of Health and Social Care for increased funding as we are living in a region with an ever increasing population who, in turn, are putting inevitable demands on the local system."

READ MORE: Healthcare plan for region was 'over optimistic' as £96m deficit is revealed

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