A £57 million overspend in Cornwall has led to a dramatic restructuring of NHS support services.
Over 300 such local support services in the region are currently being reviewed as health commissioners deal with the fallout from another NHS region in massive deficit.
NHS Kernow has confirmed it is assessing small service providers with contracts of £1 million and under amid a “serious and challenging financial position”.
There are already massive concerns among the general public in Cornwall that many important services could be jettisoned as a result of the decision-making process.
In particular, it has already been suggested in the local media that projects planned to support stroke sufferers could be closed down completely.
Yet NHS Kernow states that no decisions have been made on what services will ultimately be affected.
The NHS trust ended the last financial year £17.4 million overspent on its £730 million budget, but it seems that the organisation will far exceed this figure in the most recent financial year.
The decision in Devon is indicative of the process in the south west of England, with trusts in the region being particularly diligently analysed regarding the value for money of services that are being delivered.
Neighbouring commissioners NEW Devon have been put into a “success regime” which is also re-evaluating what health services are provided.
While this is a procedure being conducted throughout the NHS, financial data has indicated that the south west is particularly struggling against NHS targets, and with funding issues.
Both the Devon and Kernow Trusts have stated publicly that they have ruled out no form of action at the time of writing, and clearly something drastic action could be required in order to balance the books.
But cuts are absolutely inevitable, and it seems equally inevitable that people who benefit from these services will strongly disagree with whatever decisions are taken.
NHS Kernow has already acknowledged in its most recent financial report that tough decisions need to be made at the NHS trust.
“With increasing costs and needs, if we do not act quickly, our projected deficit will reach £57m by the end of 2016/17,” it noted in the report.
Dr Iain Chorlton, chairman of NHS Kernow, indicated that the trust is collaborating closely with patients, clinicians and staff, and that any decisions made about cuts will be arrived at with assiduous care.
“We continuously review services to ensure that they provide the best possible clinical outcomes and value for money, based on the needs of the population and the money we have available to spend. No final decisions about smaller service provision have been agreed, but we want to be up front; there is the potential for some to end or be downsized.”
Stroke survivors in the Cornwall region have already expressed their concern that critical projects will be eliminated by the funding review, but it is nonetheless clear that some form of action must be taken by the trust in absentia of any further funding.