FINANCE: The leaders of three Berkshire clinical commissioning groups have written to MPs to say that the level of variation in the funding of local commissioners “simply cannot be justified”.

Their letter also raises concerns about an additional £11m in funding they have been asked to provide to support the ‘integration costs’ of a local trust that has just been acquired by a neighbouring provider.

The chairs of Slough; Bracknell and Ascot; and Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead Clinical Commissioning Groups said CCGs should “swiftly” be moved to a formula devised by NHS England, which focuses more on population characteristics and need.

Jim O’Donnell, William Tong, Adrian Hayter and the shared accountable officer for all three groups, Alan Webb, said: “We believe the current level of variation between CCGs simply cannot be justified. There are wide differences in funding even between the CCGs in the south of England”.

The CCGs’ letter, copied to local MPs including Home Secretary Theresa May, also suggests that the recent acquisition of Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust by neighbouring Frimley Park Foundation Trust, while welcome, would further pile financial pressure on the east Berkshire CCGs.

The letter said: “Our local CCGs have also been asked to provide an additional £11m of funding to support the trust’s “integration costs” over the next few years, in addition to the normal payments for activity.

“Given we are already significantly underfunded, this cannot be done without impacting on the provision of other services for our patients.”

The issue of financial allocations has long been a source of frustration for clinical commissioning groups, as around two-fifths of CCGs are at least five percentage points either above or below what is considered their “target” allocation, according to official figures.

The CCG leaders suggest that if they were all funded at the appropriate level identified by NHS England they would have received an additional £36m in 2014-15.

The letter, addressed to the Commons public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge, says: “Whilst we recognise that making changes to historic funding patterns are difficult, now that NHS England has adopted a formula which calculates what funds should be available to local areas based on factors such as need and population characteristics, we believe CCGs should be swiftly moved to this more appropriate level of funding.

MPs on the public accounts committee were made aware of the letter earlier this week during a hearing on local funding allocations.

During the hearing NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that he wanted NHS England to move all CCGs to within 5 per cent of their target “fair share” funding within two to three years.

Doing so would represent a marked increase on the pace at which groups have moved towards target this year and in 2015-16, which could lead to real terms cuts in some areas.

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