HEALTH chiefs have ordered emergency cuts worth £10m to NHS services covering 800,000 people in Yorkshire amid dire warnings they risk running out of money.
Access to hospital, GP and community care will be curbed and services axed as part of desperate efforts by NHS bosses in North Yorkshire to tackle a dramatically worsening debt crisis.
Officials are warning the county faces running out of money to pay hospitals and GPs for services unless measures are taken to stem losses originally forecast to hit £19m by March.
Latest figures reveal services were already £24m overspent in the five months to August, mainly due to vast extra spending on hospital care.
The deteriorating situation is further complicated by the Government’s controversial NHS reforms handing family doctors responsibility for paying for services next year – triggering warnings that GP groups in the county face paying off spiralling debts which will leave them fatally damaged from the start.
There was an angry reaction to the cuts package unveiled at a board meeting of NHS North Yorkshire and York yesterday. The measures will see some minor injury units either axed or opening shorter hours, temporary closures of community hospital beds and a halt to flagship Government plans to recruit more health visitors and offer health checks to people aged 40 to 75.
Tighter controls will also be put in place to rigorously enforce limits on access to planned hospital treatment and cut numbers of outpatient follow-up appointments.
Scarborough GP Dougie Lumb, chief executive of the North Yorkshire Local Medical Committee which represents GPs, told the meeting the “slash-and-burn cuts” risked being the “longest suicide note” written by the primary care trust.
He claimed GPs offered the solution to the ills which faced the county but if their funding was reduced, surgeries would shed staff and “there will be some GPs that do not survive”.
Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said better use of resources, better management and better ways of delivering healthcare were needed rather than a “knee-jerk panic reaction”, warning without more resources the new GP commissioning groups would be “authorised to fail”.
Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, cabinet member for health and social services at York Council, said the measures would also hit hard-pressed councils.
“Some of these cuts will impact on local authorities – where are people going to go because we’ve not got the money to provide these services either?” she said.
In a report to the meeting, PCT chairman Kevin McAleese said it would “literally run out of cash” sometime before the end of March unless “radical” action was taken.
He said the county had the lowest funded NHS services in the North and Midlands but no extra support would be available to shore up the financial position.
Chief executive Chris Long added: “The short term actions being undertaken, while unpalatable, are vital. If the risk of overspend is not managed there is a significant threat that the organisation will not be able to make payments to trusts, GPs and other contractors for services and products such as drugs.”
He said management consultants KPMG were expected to make recommendations in November over major reconfigurations of care to make services more affordable.