Health secretary Andrew Lansley has denied primary care trusts are in “meltdown” as a result of his reform plans.
Mr Lansley was responding to concerns raised by MPs from his own party during a Commons health committee hearing into the impact of the financial squeeze on NHS spending.
Conservative MP for Totnes Sarah Wollaston said: “PCTs are in meltdown in some areas. How are we going to deliver the [NHS] efficiency challenge at all?” This question was echoed by fellow committee member and Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries.
Mr Lansley replied: “PCTs are not, across the country, in meltdown. Where financial control is concerned, we’re expecting to retain, if anything, stronger financial controls through the next year because we’re in a very constrained financial situation.”
NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson, also appearing at the hearing, said the need for savings meant there would not be 152 PCTs by 1 April 2013, and there was “absolutely no doubt” PCTs would need to follow in London’s footsteps by forming clusters.
He said 40 per cent of efficiencies would come from acute sector tariff savings.
The same amount would come from cuts in pay and management costs and central budgets, and 20 per cent from service change. He warned that the Department of Health would be taking a “very tight rein” during the transition.
He said: “To manage the transition there’s no doubt in my mind that in some ways we’re going to have to centralise more power in the short term to deliver the benefits in the medium and long term.”
Details of this approach will be set out in the NHS operating framework, due in mid December.