A new GPs organisation that will take charge of health services in west Herts next year is set to rack up almost £5 million of debt before it even starts.
Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was £1.1 million in the red in July but this has been predicted to hit £4.7 million by the end of the financial year.
Next April the CCG – made up of GP practices across west Herts – will take on the job of commissioning and providing health services, but campaigners say they caught in a Catch 22.
Betty Harris, chairman of Dacorum Hospital Action Group, said: “I’m really, really concerned. That’s a hell of a lot of money – it’s before they’ve even got going.
“They’re up the creek without a paddle. Patients are not going to stop being ill or needing referrals.”
The debt is being blamed on increased emergency admissions to hospital and a high number of GP consultant referrals.
Betty said: “I like the idea clinicians are in charge of referrals, but if they are holding the purse strings they’re going to work hard to reduce referrals, so where does that leave GPs? It’s a Catch 22.”
A report to the board of NHS Herts, which currently has responsibility for services and oversees the CCG, says: “The board, in order to curtail the level of overspend, has agreed on a range of actions to be included in a financial recovery plan to be prepared by the end of September.”
The plan includes cutting emergency admissions and ‘continued focus on appropriate GP referrals and GP prescribing’.
Nicolas Small, chair of Herts Valleys CCG, told the Gazette: “Clinical commissioning groups will become statutory NHS bodies in April 2013.
“NHS Hertfordshire has delegated the budget for commissioning secondary care and other health services to Herts Valleys CCG during this transition period.
“Our total budget for 2012/13 is £649 million.”