By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
The financial woes of the NHS in Kent have been laid bare as bosses seek to plug a cash gap of £22million within its budget.
The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says the local health system, which includes seven hospitals, 200 GPs and four NHS trusts, faces income losses while costs of supplying medical prescriptions for patients have “exceeded expected value”.
Health bosses say they are confident that £17m of the £22m gap will be filled by NHS England, which will be supported by central funding.
There will be no cuts to public facing services in the county, CCG chiefs say.
Ivor Duffy, the Kent and Medway CCG’s chief finance officer, said: “I must stress that no frontline services will be impacted by the current financial challenge.
“The priority for all partners in the Kent and Medway system is ensuring delivery of clinical services, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
An £8m “contingency fund” is being created by the NHS body as the CCG plans to use cash reserves to manage the new and emerging risks.
A total of 746 staff work for the county-wide CCG. The organisation was formed seven months ago and brought together Kent’s eight smaller CCGs.
The aim of the shake-up was to create an “integrated” care system in Kent to serve the county’s 1.8million residents with an improved and more efficient service.
Despite having an annual budget of more than £3billion, the CCG currently faces a deficit of £22m, which amounts to roughly five per cent of the total cost of developer Mark Quinn’s proposed super hospital in Canterbury.
Two key factors have caused the shortfall. Firstly, the CCG faces major income losses due to the pandemic, around £17million for the second half of the year.
Under this, the Covid crisis has seen Kent NHS trusts provide a reduced level of private patient services while less research projects have been undertaken.
Secondly, the NHS has experienced a substantial rise in costs for the provision of patient prescriptions since the Covid outbreak, some related to respiratory conditions. This amounts to around £5m of the total deficit.
Mr Duffy said: “The CCG is currently working on behalf of the wider health system in Kent and Medway to secure additional resource to cover this income shortfall and we expect that this will be forthcoming.
“The plan and budgets are currently draft, while discussions are ongoing with NHS England to sign off a final CCG and system plan.”
Last weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the introduction of a second national lockdown from Thursday, until at least December 2. The chief aim from Whitehall is to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Alongside this, the Kent and Medway CCG says it has received a cash boost of £66m to cover growing Covid costs during the winter period and until April 1.
But the funding will not be used to cover the £22m deficit because the cash will be needed to support the frontline coronavirus response, the CCG says.
Mr Duffy added: “The cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital discharge programmes in health and social care, testing and 111 First will be funded over and above the £66m allocation.”