Peterborough patients will face minimum waiting times for non-urgent treatment in a bid to tackle a major deficit in the local NHS system.
Health bosses are to introduce a minimum waiting time of 12 weeks, but they insist that the 18 week treatment target for-urgent conditions will still be met.
The measure is part of a Capped Expenditure Process which was introduced by NHS England in April for 14 areas of the country facing a significant financial deficit.
The county’s clinical commissioning group expects a deficit of £15.5 million in 2017/18, but only if it makes financial improvements of £46.4 million in-year.
Jonathan Dunk, acting chief officer of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The CCG is reviewing a number of initiatives as part of the Capped Expenditure Process (CEP) including: introducing minimum waiting times across the CCG for non-urgent cases, but ensuring that patients are still treated within the NHS Constitution 18 week target, strengthening our CCG self-care policy, ensuring clinical policies are properly and consistently applied, and joint work between primary and secondary care clinicians to review clinical pathways with the aim of reducing outpatient activity where this is of low clinical value.
“We hope that these initiatives, along with our Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) savings, will help to address the CCG’s financial pressures and risks.”
A report from the CCG goes further, stating that 12 week minimum waiting times for treatment for non-urgent cases will be introduced.
In addition, it will support practices not to prescribe over the counter medicines and will review medicines of “limited clinical effectiveness.”
Campaign group 38 Degrees says many NHS bosses in the affected areas across the country are refusing to disclose their plans, some of which have leaked out.
Nearly a quarter of a million members of the public have signed a national 38 Degrees petition to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to step in and reveal the plans.
Moreover, more than 3,300 residents in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have signed a petition directed to the county’s MPs asking them to put pressure on Mr Hunt.
Speaking about the national campaign, Holly Maltby, campaigner at 38 Degrees said: “This new evidence reveals NHS bosses are being forced to rush through cuts and closures so quickly they are ignoring their own rules for involving patients.
“The health service is struggling to cope with a lack of funding, but plugging the funding gap through secret cuts isn’t in the best interests of patients.”
In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, all trusts and the CCG submitted plans which were a combined £9.7 million below the financial position expected by regulators which led to the CEP process being introduced.
The CCG added: “The CEP process has given the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough system the opportunity, and support, necessary to discuss the measures required to collectively agree affordable 2017/18 operating plans.
“The proposed measures resulting from this process will enable our health economy to achieve the best possible clinical outcomes for the public we serve, whilst ensuring expenditure remains within funding levels available to the NHS in our area.”
Last November, the CCG revealed its Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) which aims to tackle an expected £500 million deficit over the following four years.
This included merging GP practices.
The CCG is also consulting on removing IVF treatment for residents, other than for patients undergoing cancer treatment and men who have a chronic viral infection.