• Northumberland CCG was rated “inadequate” in 2016 before being placed under legal directions
  • But, after its 2019 “good” rating, CCG now has full financial autonomy 

Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group has regained full financial independence for the first time in nearly three years.

The CCG was rated “inadequate” by NHS England in 2016 before being placed under legal directions not long after. It was placed in financial special measures a year later and was told to underreport its deficit by more than £35 million, as revealed by HSJ.

After being upgraded to “good” in the most recent CCG ratings, published by NHS England earlier this month, the group has regained full autonomy over its finances.

Siobhan Brown, the CCG’s chief operating officer, told HSJ: “I think we’ve really struggled with the ability to invest in things over these previous years.

“But, not only have we got the power to make those decisions again, we actually have the necessary funding for investment.

“There’s a big national health and technology agenda, with all types of apps and online consultations, but for us primary care particularly is the absolute bedrock of our services.

“I think one of our absolutely fundamental areas going forward is the investment into primary care, and also integrated care that wraps around primary care networks.

“We’ve got six networks here in Northumberland and we’re working really hard with them now to look at how care wraps around them and how they start to look at the population health and outcomes for their populations.”

Even with the financial hardships, Ms Brown insisted Northumberland CCG can breakeven with a “strong” financial recovery plan as it continues to tackle its £57m historic deficit.

She said: “We’re very confident, with our in-year position for 2019-20, of getting to a breakeven position with some commissioners’ support funding.”

One of the key areas focused on after being placed in legal directions was clinical leadership, with a robust recruitment drive having led to 24 GPs in various clinical lead and director posts.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, the group awarded Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust a contract to provide a new musculoskeletal and pain service.

John Warrington, the group’s business director for planned care, said he believed the service is a “trailblazing” initiative, adding: “I think that the service is really modern, evidence-based [and] demedicalised which is critical. We’re super optimistic that this is going to be really good, it’s certainly the right thing to do and we’re optimistic that it’ll be a great success.”