Fears for funding future of Harrogate's healthcare

Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council's Scrutiny of Health Committee, Jim Clark, has raised concerns over the new boundary lines.
Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council's Scrutiny of Health Committee, Jim Clark, has raised concerns over the new boundary lines.

Harrogate’s health services could be ‘starved of funding’ following a major NHS reorganisation, fears a leading health official.

NHS England finalised 44 new geographical groups in March, which saw Harrogate District Hospital fall in with West Yorkshire's health services.

Harrogate will join 10 other clinical commissioning groups in the new move, but the chair of the scrutiny of health committee, Coun Jim Clark (Con) fears the consequences.

Jim Clark, Chair of North Yorkshire’s Scrutiny of Health, said: "He said: “The problem is that if you’re a good hospital doing alright and Harrogate is a relatively small hospital compared to the others, you’re going to miss out when you’re looking at problems in Leeds and in Bradford and in Halifax and Huddersfield. I hope it doesn’t get starved of funding.

“I’m frightened that Harrogate, North Yorkshire, the rural areas, as well as the towns, get pushed down because there are these bigger issues.

“Health in a large county like North Yorkshire is financially fragile. It’s never going to be easy to deliver health services to a large area and I don’t think this is going to help.”

The reform is part of the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) and in the 44 STP groups or ‘footprints’, West Yorkshire is one of the biggest.

Serving a population of £2.5million, the West Yorkshire footprint comes only second to Greater Manchester (£2.8million) and could face a potential collective deficit of £60 million.

Footprint groups have been asked to draw up their own five-year funding plan setting out what they hope to achieve annually from now until 2021.

The plans are to be submitted by the end of June and have been labelled as a form of ‘reverse engineering’ whereby groups can set a goal for 2021 and then work back to see how much they will need to save in the years previous.

But while the current funnel for funding CCGs, still stands, Coun Clark is concerned this new way of funding services could ultimately lead to the removal of CCGs completely.

He said: “One of the problems we face is that we think this is being driven a lot by change but also by the state of the finances of the health service because the health service is underfunded at the moment and there are big cuts coming.

“I think the danger is eventually the CCGs will disappear and the STPs will take over, so all our health is grouped in with West Yorkshire.

“North Yorkshire suffers because we’re relatively affluent, we have a very good CCG and a very good hospital in Harrogate and my fear is that people will say they don’t need any money.

“They’re doing alright but it needs continual investment and we’re only going to be one out of 11 getting this money.”

But Jonathan Coulter, Director of Finance at Harrogate District Hospital and Foundation Trust, reassured that for the moment there is nothing to suggest the CCG's will disappear.

He said: “Harrogate CCG will still exist and will still get just over £200million to provide services to the people of Harrogate. Perhaps concerns are that any future funding could be wrapped up in a bigger geography but we just don’t know yet.

“I couldn’t comment on the Government structure going forward there’s nothing to suggest that it is going to change. I wouldn’t want to speculate that if it became a North Yorkshire CCG or a West Yorkshire CCG what that would mean.”

Julie Warren, Locality Director for NHS England (North), also remained positive and reassured that the plans would be subject to public consultation.

She said: “The services patients already use were a key factor in determining the STP areas, and a group made up of local NHS and council leaders agreed that Harrogate would be placed in the West Yorkshire STP area.”