PERFORMANCE: A legal direction has been placed on a clinical commissioning group by NHS England following the discovery of a large backlog of elective patients at its main provider.

Barnet CCG is one of the first groups to be given a legal direction since it became a statutory body in April 2013.

Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust discovered a backlog of around 179 patients who had waited over a year for surgery in June. It merged with Royal Free London Foundation Trust in July.

At the time, Barnet CCG was unable to confirm the exact number because the data had not been validated. An expected completion date for the validation work has already been pushed back from March 2015 to at least autumn.

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Barnet CCG has said it will work with the Royal Free to establish a recovery plan

The entire backlog of patients waiting for treatment is not expected to be cleared until “late 2015”.

The CCG has told NHS England it will work with the Royal Free to establish a recovery plan, a data validation project and an improvement programme to ensure that the trust starts to meet national elective waiting targets.

A governing body paper revealed that NHS England responded to the situation at the end of July by placing an additional legal direction on the CCG.

It already had two legal directions, related to finance and planning. It is one of only three CCGs in the country that still have legal directions imposed.

Three interim leaders have also been brought in to the CCG following the resignation of its former chief officer John Morton.

Rob Larkman and Jonathan Wise from Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon CCGs have joined the CCG for three months. Mr Larkman will be interim accountable officer while Mr Wise will undertake a review of the CCG’s financial position. Peter Coles has taken on the role of interim chief operating officer.

An NHS England (London) spokeswoman said: “For a significant period now, there have been long-standing and complex difficulties at Barnet and Chase Farm (now part of Royal Free London)… This has meant local people have, in some cases been waiting too long for treatment.

“NHS England has already provided practical support, but after carefully considering the ongoing challenges, we have decided to give additional targeted support, that is underpinned by legal directions.”

The spokeswoman said the directions would mean NHS England can “temporarily guide” the CCG in improving waiting times for treatment.

A spokesman for Barnet CCG said: “The CCG is working more closely with NHS England to understand - and address - the underlying problems on waiting times for treatment, and ensure that BCFH (as part of the Royal Free) have sustainable plans in place to meet local demands for services in the future.”

At the end of 2013-14 Barnet CCG recorded a £9m deficit.