Councillors write to Prime Minister over North Yorkshire NHS finances

North Yorkshire’s health watchdog has written to the Prime Minister to raise concerns about the state of NHS finances locally.

The letter has also gone to Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England.

At the last meeting of the Scrutiny of Health Committee members agreed to write to the very top of Government after hearing that in 2017/18 the total deficit incurred by the four Clinical Commissioning Groups that cover most of the North Yorkshire population was £46m.

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The projected deficit for the current year is likely to amount to at least £31m.

This includes Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG’s deficit which after savings is forecast to be £3m this year.

Cllr Jim Clark, chair of the scrutiny of health committee, said: “We are so concerned that we have taken the unusual decision to write directly to the Prime Minister.

“We want to be assured that any additional funding for health services is subject to robust audit to help ensure that it is used effectively and efficiently and not just to provide a temporary stop-gap for local deficits.”

The letter from Cllr Clark says in full: “I am writing to you on behalf of the North Yorkshire County Council Scrutiny of Health Committee. The Committee welcomes your pledge to increase investment substantially in NHS services in the country and we pay tribute to the dedication and hard work of NHS staff, who do so much to ensure that we have the highest quality of services available to us when we most need them.

“In North Yorkshire, we are in the unfortunate position whereby four out of the five Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that commission services for our communities have been unable to keep within their spending limits in recent years. Indeed, the total deficit across the CCGs is in excess of £46million for 2017/18 and the budget for 2018/19 is a £30million deficit.

“The committee has been concerned that the independent, external auditors of the CCGs have sent letters to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care under Section 30 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 for the actual breach of financial regulations. We have heard anecdotally that the Secretary of State receives numerous such letters from the auditors of CCGs across the country.

“Since the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, there is evidence that having five CCGs for North Yorkshire is not sustainable and that they are not able to operate at sufficient scale and within budget. You will be aware that there is a history of NHS commissioners in North Yorkshire being in deficit that goes back many years.

“Unless robust financial controls are put in place by NHS England, the additional money that is being allocated will not be used effectively and efficiently and taxpayers will not get value for money. The Committee requests that you instruct NHS England to ensure that proper controls are put in place before additional money is granted and that robust audit procedures are developed.

“On 3rd January 2018, the Committee wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care regarding the local impact of shortages of NHS and social care staff. We have yet to receive a reply and so felt that we had no alternative but to write to you directly.

“I look forward to hearing from you.”

The letter has been copied to the county’s MPs