Half billion pound NHS cuts in southwest London branded 'unachievable'
Plans to save nearly half a billion pounds in healthcare cost across south west London has been dubbed unachievable by health service regulators.
A draft strategy from newly formed South West London Collaborative Commissioning (SWLCC) was published last week stating there is a predicted budget shortfall of £210m over the next five years shared between clinical commissioning groups working in Merton, Sutton, Wandsworth, Croydon, Kingston and Richmond.
In addition to this Epsom and St Helier, Croydon, Kingston and St George's NHS trusts have to identify £360m worth of savings over the same time period.
An ageing population, costs of new technology, the cost of drugs and hospital improvements were identified as the cause of the huge potential deficit.
Remarkably the document states these are ‘savings considered to be far in excess of what is considered achievable.’
The view comes from two bodies - The sector regulator for health services in England, Monitor, and the Foundation Trust Network.
A SWLCC spokesperson said: "The assertion about the likely achievability of the trusts’ savings plans is based on the view of Monitor and the Foundation Trust Network that cost improvement plans higher than 2.5 per cent of a trust’s budget are likely to be difficult to achieve.
"The plans of our local acute trusts all exceed 2.5 per cent. Again, it is a question for the trusts how the savings will be achieved if they do not succeed with their cost improvement plans."
The formation of SWLCC comes only months after the break down of Better Services Better Value, a healthcare review designed to cut costs across the area.
The unpopular review had recommended the cutting of major services to St Helier Hospital before it was abandoned.
Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaigner Georgia Lewis said: "The strategy document cites a £210m funding gap and £126m worth of savings coming from acute services - that means A&E departments.
"How can this be done without making significant cuts? ‘Consolidating services’ is the rhetoric.
"It just means fewer A&E departments. It has happened at Hammersmith Hospital and it can happen here too."
The document has emphasised community care opposed to hospital care could provide major cost savings.
A healthcare centre featuring two GP practices, physiotherapy, minor surgery wards and x-ray facilities is under construction on the former Nelson Hospital site in Kingston Road and NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has stated there are plans for a similar facility in Mitcham.
A spokesperson for Merton CCG, said: "The NHS has for several years been trying to move more care out of hospital and treat people closer to home, in response to an ageing population in which more people are living with long term conditions.
"This means that people only have to go to hospital when they really need to be there."
A meeting was held on Thursday to discuss Merton’s plans for implementing the five year strategy.
Among those who attended was Lower Morden Residents’ Association member Sally Kenny.
She said: "We are going round in circles.
"St Helier needs money spent on the building."
She said very little detail has been revealed so far on how the strategy will be implemented.
The publication of the draft strategy is the first in a two stage process.
Firstly it will be discussed for approval by each of the six CCG governing bodies over the next few weeks.
The second step is to agree on the detail including how trusts will deliver it.