Peterborough health chief grilled over failure to make any headway on £500m savings

Crucial health services could be affected as the local area health partnership has failed to deliver on £500 million of promised savings.

Friday, 21st September 2018, 10:56 am
Updated Friday, 21st September 2018, 11:58 am
Dr Gary Howsam
Dr Gary Howsam

Dr Gary Howsam, clinical chair of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Sustainability & Transformation Partnership (STP) had to answer some tough questions at the Peterborough City Council Health & Scrutiny Committee meeting.

Cllr Brian Rush demanded to know if the STP was on track with its five-year plan to save £500 million.

Dr Howsam said that far from making substantial savings, the STP was in danger of increasing the budget overspend: “No we are not on track, and I think that if we continue to spend at the rate that we are currently doing, we shall only be adding to the existing deficit.”

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Set up in October 2016, the STP’s aim was to improve the health and care of our 900,000 local population and use partnerships to bring the system back into financial balance, turning a projected £504 million deficit into a small surplus of £1.3 million by 2020/21.

But problems have dogged the STP from the very outset, and with an annual control budget this year of £35, the partnership is already running at a £42 million deficit.

The latest report put before committee members now forecasts a projected deficit of £500 million for 2021, with only one other partnership in the country running a higher loss than the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough STP.

“What are we doing about this, because I don’t see any evidence in this report of your successes, only failure after failure,” said Cllr David Over.

Dr Howsam said: “There are successes within the report, but I have to admit to the committee that we have 1,001 smaller issues to deal with, rather than just one ‘big bang’ story.

“An STP is not a statutory body with a quick fix solution, and there are terrible shortages everywhere in the NHS at the moment, particularly in the finding of new staff and retaining our existing staff. Trying to solve this issue is what keeps me awake at night.

“These problems present us with some persistent challenges over the next few months and the public quite rightly want answers to these issues, such as the four-hour waiting time target for A&E which we continually fail to achieve.”

Other areas highlighted for concern in the report include delays in discharging of patients, long waits for assessment of scans, big problems with both clinical and social care of mental health patients and large numbers of staff shortages and turnaround.

Members acknowledged receipt of the report, pending a more detailed plan of action which is expected at their next meeting in November.

Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service