Fingers indicate that the NHS in the West Country is facing the most significant financial crisis in the entire history of the health service.
NHS organisations in the region face a combined deficit in excess of £527 million, with no hope on the horizon of this figure been reduced significantly.
All NHS organisations in Northern, Eastern and Western Devon combined have accumulated by far the biggest deficit.
The figure for these regions of the country is in excess of £440 million, assuming that nothing is done to tackle the issues over the next five years.
The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group is part of the wider intervention in Devon referred to as the ‘Success Regime’.
Earlier this year, the local organisations who form the Success Regime released a “case for change” document.
This laid out the long-standing issues facing the local health and social care community over the next five years, making it abundantly clear that inaction is not an option.
Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, found that the level of spending in the NHS as a whole, not merely the West Country, is completely unacceptable, and called on the government to rectify the situation.
“Spending on health as a proportion of GDP has fallen back to one of the lowest levels in the developed world under this Government. It is simply not sustainable for the Government to expect the NHS to maintain quality faced with rapidly growing demand and dwindling resources. The Government will either have to increase investment or extend charging, or services will continue to deteriorate.”
Director of Finance for the region, Neil Kemsley, indicated that logistical issues have had a significant influence over the financial picture in the West Country, citing a couple of a particularly prominent problems.
“We started the year planning for a £33 million deficit. Our year-end deficit was £36 million. The main cause relates to a higher than expected increase in emergency activity, which we are paid at a marginal rate for. This meant that we were not able to carry out as many planned operations and procedures as we had scheduled to do and which we would have been paid at a full rate for. As a result of this, we have had to pay penalties for not meeting national targets, such as the target of treating a patient within 18 weeks of referral.”
While the situation in the West Country is particularly grim, the financial position of the NHS as a whole has been proven to be extremely precarious.
NHS trusts recently reported a collective deficit in excess of £2.3 billion over the most recent financial year.