Winter reserves used to plug Oxfordshire NHS black hole

John Radcliffe Hospital West Wing Image copyright Bill Nicholls
Image caption The John Radcliffe Hospital is one of the hospitals where savings could be found

Winter reserves are set to be used to plug a £17m black hole in the finances of the NHS in Oxfordshire.

The county's clinical commissioning group (CCG) has agreed a £12m financial recovery plan, which partly draws from "contingency" funds.

It has now set up a task force to find further savings from this year's budget to make up the shortfall.

CCG chief executive David Smith said: "If we do not take action now, the position is going to get worse."

Honesty needed

The financial shortfall has been caused by a 40% rise in the amount paid for funded nursing care, which is costing an extra £5m.

Meanwhile, a larger than expected contract with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Oxford's John Radcliffe hospital, is costing an extra £8m, fuelled by increased patient demand.

"We have very difficult times ahead. This plan resolves our financial position this year, but we need to see what is sustainable next year," Mr Smith said.

"There have to be changes in the way services are delivered."

But Oxfordshire Green Party health spokesman Larry Sanders said the county's health bosses had to be more honest about the effect on services.

"What I object to is not that the CCG needs to make cuts, but that they should be more honest about what the cuts will be," he said.

'Absurd situation'

Pritt Buttar, a GP from Abingdon, said healthcare professionals could "not avoid being worried about patients' wellbeing".

"Theses cuts have to come from services. Pressure on existing staff will increase and waiting times for appointments will increase," he said.

"We have an ageing population, growing expectations of what the NHS should provide, and plans for a seven-day health service when we are not funding a five-day service properly. The situation is just absurd."

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