HEALTH IN CRISIS: £20 million budget deficit prompts warning call

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Mansfield & Ashfield NHS bodies have issued a warning as local services face a £20-million budget deficit this year, prompting a plea for service users to think carefully about how they use healthcare.

The warning comes as figures for the first two months of the financiall year show a staggering rise in the number of patients visiting A&E who could have been helped elsewhere, as well as over £1m wasted on unnecessary prescriptions.

- 700 GP appointments missed at one Mansfield surgery

- £12 million wasted on over-prescribed drugs

- 275 more A&E admissions per month than last year

The Hhalth chief for both Mansfield & Ashfield, and Newark & Sherwood CCGs says the two bodies combined must find £20 million in cuts over the next 12 months – around double what they expected to have to save.

Dr Amanda Sullivan said: “People are probably not aware of the increased strain this is putting on services. A&E is for the most gravely ill or for serious accidents, but our A&E department is routinely reporting that patients are presenting with symptoms that could have been treated at home, at their GP practice or with some advice from a pharmacist.”

The difference in costs is huge - with a GP appointment costing around £46 for the NHS, while a trip to A&E is almost three times as much - at around £120 per patient.

“The CCG pays the hospital trusts each time someone attends A&E and we’ve already seen a significant increase in emergency admissions at King’s Mill Hospital in the first two months of the financial year – 576 more admissions than the same period last year.

“Our message is clear – please do not attend A&E for everyday problems. Use your local GP service or your local pharmacy, and remember the 111 NHS helpline can be accessed 24/7. The out of hours GP service can also be used for urgent care needs that cannot wait until the GP surgery re-opens.”

Over prescription of drugs presents another problem with an estimated £1.2 million wasted on unnecessary prescriptions in the area last year, while wastage needs to be addressed across the healthcare system. In March-May 2016 around 700 GP appointments were unattended at just one Mansfield GP practice.

Dr Sullivan added: “We are already taking steps to reduce some costs and attempt to recover the CCGs’ position. However, there are likely to be more difficult decisions ahead if we don’t all play our part in relieving pressure on our local NHS services and keeping within our means.”

CCGs do, however, pay pharmacists each time a prescription is issued.

“We would urge people to only order what prescriptions they actually need,” said Dr Sullivan.

“People who have repeat prescriptions should speak to their GP and request a medications review if their medication is being ordered but not used. In Mansfield and Ashfield and Newark and Sherwood, alone, it is estimated that £1.2 million was wasted over a year on prescribed drugs that were not needed.”

And following a plea form health bosses for patients to think carefully about how they use the NHS, bodies responsible for representing patients have reiterated claims that we ‘all have a part to play. Peter Robinson, on Mansfield and Ashfield CCG’s Citizens Reference Panel said:  “The position is serious with the CCGs under close scrutiny and expected to recover from the situation quickly. The public can respond to these concerns by thinking twice before they waste time of GP practices, nursing and hospital staff time, which is costly. We all have a part to play.”