Hospital care funding to be cut in spending switch

By Ian Dipple Friday 14 March 2014 Updated: 14/03 11:57

FUNDING for hospital care is to be cut by £7million over the next two years as commissioners begin to plough more cash into community services.

Contracts with hospital Trusts, including Worcestershire Acute which is the main provider, accounted for more than 53 per cent of money spent by the county’s three clinical commissioning groups in the last 12 months - more than £320million.

That figure will fall by 2015/16 to 49 per cent - or over £313million - and the additional cash will instead be spent on bolstering community and primary care services, particularly those aimed at treating frail, elderly patients with complex conditions, ensuring they are available seven days a week and more joint commissioning of health and social care services.

The spending switch is seen as vital to reduce the increasing number of emergency admissions, which have risen steadily in Worcestershire over the last five years, although attendances are at their lowest level since 2008/09.

While direct referrals to A&E by GPs have fallen by 8.2 per cent to around 15,000, those arriving by ambulance requiring admission have risen by 13.6 per cent and admissions through A&E by 12.8 per cent.

Plans set out in the county’s urgent care strategy aim to cut emergency admissions by 15 per cent and diverting resources away from hospitals and into other parts of the NHS is seen as key to achieving that

Peter Pinfield, chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire, said he was concerned the shift was ‘a big ask’ for providers.

But Simon Hairsnape, chief operating officer for Redditch and Bromsgrove, said providers were aware of the change and discussions were ongoing as part of current contract negotiations.

“There is going to be significant change across the health and social care landscape and that is going to impact on our providers because of changed integrated commissioning intentions and of course it’s really important we go on that journey together,” he told a meeting of Worcestershire’s Health and Well-being Board.

Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust are supportive of the plan as they believe it is better for patients to be treated closer to home and reduced demand will allow them to cut costs by closing beds and reducing temporary staffing.

But there are tensions about cuts being made to their funding when they are already not being fully reimbursed for the demand they are currently experiencing, which is above contracted levels.

Chief executive Penny Venables told the Standard they were seeking a ‘sensible offer’ regarding payment around emergency admissions as part of this year’s contract discussions.

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