Peterborough health chiefs pull back from cutting emergency team as union criticises plans

JET practitioner Paul Davies
JET practitioner Paul Davies
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Health chiefs have pulled back from cutting an emergency team used to support pensioners in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - which commissions health services in the county - was expected to scrap the Joint Emergency Team (JET) at today’s governing body meeting (Tuesday) in a bid to cut its huge deficit.

But the CCG confirmed today it would delay any decision for another fortnight to review a “large number of submissions and new information” it has recently received.

It also announced it would be launching a ‘Big Conversation’ later this month so it can “fully understand” the community’s health needs and priorities, and that it is suffering from receiving £350 per person less in funding than other areas of the country.

The CCG is trying to make £33 million of savings just to hit a planned deficit target of £75 million.

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The JET is an urgent two or four-hour response service which supports people over the age of 65 or those with long-term conditions in their own home when they become very unwell and need urgent care, but do not need to go to hospital.

The team carries out an initial assessment and develops a care plan in liaison with the patient’s GP.

The team is 45 strong and receives about 10,000 patient contacts a year, for instance when a person has suffered a fall or reduced mobility or a current illness has worsened.

The service, which costs £3.6 million a year, is run by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), the provider of community health services for older people and those with long-term conditions, as well as mental health services.

Ahead of the meeting CPFT chief executive Tracy Dowling said she was “deeply concerned for the safety of patients in the community” if the JET was decommissioned, and that the service has “proved to be highly innovative and effective in delivering urgent care to patients in their own home and preventing unnecessary admissions to already under-pressure acute hospitals”.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Jo Rust said cutting the service would lead to thousands more people needing hospital beds.

She said: “The Joint Emergency Team is not only managing to keep people out of hospital where possible, it’s doing it at excellent value to the taxpayer. But CCG bosses want to shut it down without so much as a consultation.

“Of course at the root of the problem is the multi-million-pound gap between the cash available to the NHS from Westminster and what the public actually needs and expects from our National Health Service.

“Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG bosses should be standing up for a fully funded NHS, not savagely cutting the services that they hope people won’t notice.”

The CCG said a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) had reviewed the JET service, which has been in operation since 2016.

The findings, according to its board papers, are that the service is “partially duplicating” the work of others and that the MDT “could not quantify improved outcomes as a result of service interventions”.

It also said the JET was not “cost effective” as it had not been proven to prevent admissions to frontline health services.

Announcing the postponement on its decision over the JET, CCG cinical chair Dr Gary Howsam said: “Since publishing our review of services, we have received a large number of submissions and new information from a number of organisations and we think it is right that we give our Governing Body more time to consider the new information and we seek clarifications if necessary. The CCG Governing Body are expecting to meet again on July 16 to review all this information.

“Funding for healthcare across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is under unprecedented pressure. We are currently buying more than we can afford, overspending by more than £1 million pounds a week, which means we need to make some difficult decisions about the services we can afford to provide in the future.

“Our funding allocation is also not keeping up with population growth or demand and we are working with our local representatives to lobby government for a review of the NHS funding formula. Other CCGs in our regions receive considerably more that we do, for example West Norfolk receives more than £350 per person than we do.

“Our total NHS system financial deficit this year is almost £200 million. The CCG has a budget of £1.3 billion but we still need to make significant savings. Much of this will be through work with our providers, with minimal impact on patients but around £33 million will need to be found to deliver even a planned deficit of £75 million.

“We will be doing this by changing the way we provide some services, removing duplication, and there will be some services that we will need to stop.

“To help us meet this ongoing financial challenge, later this month we will be launching a Big Conversation with members of our community, clinicians, providers and stakeholders, to enable us to fully understand their needs and priorities going forward.

“This information will help to inform how we invest our limited funds in the future. It’s our way of opening up the challenges we face and collectively working together to find the right solutions – putting patients at the heart of our decision-making processes.”