• Healthwatch Norfolk chief executive says NHS bailout plans “to the detriment” of patients
  • STP areas have been asked to contribute £5m to help neighbouring Cambridge and Peterborough

Healthwatch Norfolk has raised concerns over “short-sighted” plans to ease pressures on an overstretched health system by asking its neighbours to contribute to a £25m bailout.

Earlier this month, HSJ reported that NHS England and NHS Improvement East of England had called on its sustainability and transformation partnerships to contribute around £5m each to bail out Cambridge and Peterborough STP. Cambridge and Peterborough is facing a predicted deficit of £192m for 2019-20. 

The money is expected to be repaid within three years, but Healthwatch Norfolk chief executive Alex Stewart said he is concerned the decision could be “to the detriment” of patients in the Norfolk and Waveney STP area, which had a deficit of £97.6m at the end of 2018-19.

He said in a statement: “Whilst we understand that national NHS bodies operate on a regional basis, we are concerned that the approach being taken is somewhat short-sighted and to the detriment of patients in Norfolk and Waveney, especially considering we already have three trusts in special measures.

“Ultimately, representation should be being made back to the Department of Health and Social Care for increased funding as we are living in a region with an ever-increasing population who, in turn, are putting demands on the local system.”

Mr Stewart added the plans place the Norfolk health system “in an invidious position” as health bosses attempt to “make additional savings on an already overly-pressurised budget”.

In the same letter asking for help bailing out Cambridge and Peterborough, which was sent to each of the STP and integrated care system areas in the east of England, regional director for NHSE&I Ann Radmore also asked for support in taking further actions to help reduce the overall regional deficit of £76m. 

These included agreeing a “revised position and improvement” with Cambridge and Peterborough, which will focus on cost and quality improvement plans and looking for workforce opportunities.

NHSE&I is also developing a programme across the east of England to improve productivity and “explore opportunities to make greater efficiency savings”.

While details of the programme are still being developed, NHSE&I said it will involve embracing technology, delivering new models of care and benchmarking performance against high performing systems.

Since HSJ published the initial story, an NHSE&I spokeswoman has confirmed Cambridgeshire Clinical Commissioning Group is the only organisation in the Cambridge and Peterborough STP area that will not meet its control total, although she would not say what the agreed control totals were.

NHSE&I said it had no further comments to make on the story.