NHS Surrey chiefs tackle £125m deficit

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Image caption, NHS Surrey is considering a "Fast, Steady, Slow" system to prioritise patients with the greatest need

Health chiefs tackling a £125m deficit in Surrey this year are meeting to consider making "fundamental change" to healthcare in the county.

The board of NHS Surrey will meet in Cobham on Friday morning.

Members will look at how to tackle what have been described by the health trust as "serious financial challenges".

One option is a "Fast, Steady, Slow" system which would prioritise patients with the greatest needs and set out which treatments could wait.

'Huge challenge'

A spokeswoman for NHS Surrey said: "We are in quite a challenging financial position.

"The board is being asked to consider a variety of initiatives where we can focus on how we can do things differently - improving care where possible but addressing the financial position at the same time."

She said NHS Warwickshire had recently brought in the Fast, Slow, Stop system which was about "prioritising patients with the greatest health needs and not funding treatments that are not clinically effective".

She added that NHS Surrey was looking at slightly different proposals to NHS Warwickshire, but the basic principle was the same.

In Warwickshire, some treatments such as cancer, fracture and trauma referrals have been rated as Fast and are being undertaken as normal.

Other treatments have been rated as Slow and are being deferred until April - they include some routine surgery, some IVF treatment, and all referrals for back pain management.

Funding has ended for treatments that fell into the Stop category, such as acupuncture, removal of benign skin lesions, and some cosmetic procedures.

'High risk'

A report for the NHS Surrey meeting on Friday said: "In early 2010, our initial financial forecast for 2010/11 was a deficit of £125m.

"Today, we plan to deliver financial balance by the end of the year; however, this huge challenge comes with high risk."

It said NHS Surrey would have a total resource of £1.703bn for 2011/12 and was set to make annual savings of about £80m a year, with a total saving of about £225m over three years.

The report said: "To meet the health needs of people in Surrey this now means fundamental change."

NHS Surrey said options to be discussed by the board were being tabled at the meeting, and a further announcement would be made after the meeting by the trust on Friday afternoon.

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