Any proposed change to healthcare services in Central Lancashire must be deemed “affordable” before it can be put to the public, a committee of GPs has heard.
A consultation is due to take place this summer which is likely to include plans for an overhaul of urgent and emergency care in the region.
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But a meeting of the Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was told that new NHS rules meant funding must be identified for any options which require it - even before the public is asked for its preference.
Members also heard that “a conversation had started” with other public sector organisations about possible alternative sources of finance if it could not be secured from the NHS.
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“I wouldn’t want us to be in a place where we present options to the public which are not affordable,” lay member Debbie Corcoran said.
“We [could] ask them to agree to something which couldn't be funded anyway - and we would end up [going] back in another circle.”
But CCG chair, Denis Gizzi, said that the absence of funding would be “a barrier” to consulting the public.
“You used to be able to consult regardless of whether you had capital. But we can’t do that now - and it wouldn’t make sense anyway,” said Mr. Gizzi.
Papers presented to the meeting revealed that a bid for capital funding from a national programme had recently been rejected, noting that there was an “expectation” that local areas should first explore how to use existing resources “differently”.
But Matt Gaunt, finance director at both the Greater Preston and Chorley and South Ribble CCGs, said that the NHS in the region could look to other public bodies to help find funding for any reorganisation proposals.
“We’re looking at different ways of making [them] affordable and not constraining ourselves by going only where we have gone before - to NHS England and the Treasury. We can engage with partners who also have access to capital, such as local authorities - and that’s a conversation which we have started having,” Mr. Gaunt said.
Last August, a draft model of care emerged from the organisation which is overseeing work to make health and social care services sustainable in Central Lancashire. The Our Health Our Care (OHOC) programme suggested a single Accident and Emergency unit for the region, the retention of two urgent care centres for less serious problems and the creation of a dedicated facility for pre-planned operations.
But a consultation due to start this month was put back until at least May, while the “rigorous processes” which are part of any proposed reorganisation are undertaken.
In a statement after the CCG meeting, Denis Gizzi, who is also the accountable officer for OHOC, said:
“In Central Lancashire, health and social care services are facing real challenges. These challenges will become more pronounced as demand continues to increase, workforce pressures grow, and costs rise.
“We have established the Our Health Our Care programme to tackle these challenges, so we can provide safer, better care for local people now, and for the future.
“The challenges we face were set out in a case for change, which was approved by the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Groups in December. This was a key milestone in the programme – providing the mandate to proceed with creating a new vision for how health and care services could meet these serious challenges, and developing options for how they could be organised and provided.
“Last year, the Integrated Care System [a Lancashire-wide NHS body] submitted a bid to NHS England for capital investment to fund potential future changes in Central Lancashire. Funding was not allocated at that stage; however the OHOC programme remains the top priority of the Integrated Care System.
“When the work has been completed to scope potential options for delivering improved health and care services, a more detailed bid will be developed for consideration.”