Community health services could be cut, leaders warn

Healthcare leaders have warned that community health services could be cut as cash-strapped councils seek to balance the books.

The Community Network has written to health secretary Matt Hancock, warning him that local authorities could start to retender community health contacts, as part of efforts to make budgetary savings and balance the books in the aftermath of the current pandemic.

The letter warns that councils in England are facing a £9.2bn budget shortfall for 2020/21, of which only £3.2bn is currently covered by the government’s emergency COVID-19 funding.

Unlike NHS trusts, councils have a legal requirement to balance their books and the letter status that they will have to start identifying savings in order to make up the £6bn shortfall.

‘NHS trusts believe significant cuts to community health and public health services commissioned from the NHS will inevitably follow, together with further pressure on already stretched social care services,’ the letter states.

‘We are calling for a pause on retendering NHS community services contracts until the end of 2021/22 to allow services and staff the time they need to recover.

‘We have already received reports of at least one local authority beginning re-tendering exercises for all its public health services, and we are anxious to stop this from happening elsewhere,’ the letter adds.

The NHS Confederation and NHS Providers have called for a long-term solution to make sure that NHS community services commissioned by local authorities are funded to meet Agenda for Change pay increases and pension costs – if not they say jobs may be at risk.

Andrew Ridley, chair of the Community Network and chief executive of Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said: ‘Now is not the time for distracting retendering processes, much less the threat of cuts and job losses, at a time when providers of community health services are facing greater demand for services, as well as significantly more to come at the end of the lockdown period.’

Photo Credit – Aymanejed (Pixabay)

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