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16 November 2010, 15:18
GPs in East Kent have been asked not to refer patients for non urgent procedures until at least next February to save money. This is the NHS Trust statement
NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent's Medical Director Robert Stewart said: "NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent is working hard to tackle financial challenges and ensure pressure on health services can be met.
"The PCT is taking action to keep beds available at the busiest time of year, and is asking GPs to consider other options to urgently bring down spending.
"We are required by the Department of Health to achieve a £12 million surplus by the end of March 2011. However, in the first six months of this year more patients have been treated faster than planned. This, of course, means we spent more money.
"The coalition Government has protected NHS budgets and promised a slight increase. However, due to the increasing pressures of people living longer, along with new and expensive drugs and therapies we will not be able to meet demand unless we make some tough decisions.
"As a consequence of our hospitals treating more patients and the increase in referrals from our GPs, coupled with the increased demand on services during the winter, we are looking hard at every penny we spend. We are predicting our overspend could rise to £19 million by the end of the financial year.
"To ensure services are there for those most in need we are asking our GPs to share the responsibility of addressing these challenges and help us to tackle this difficult financial position.
"Therefore, we have asked our GPs to stop referrals during the winter period into hospitals for low priority procedures, and we are proposing that the median waiting time for treatment is extended by three weeks. We are also consulting them on further options. In future they will become responsible for purchasing services for patients and making tough financial decisions, so it is appropriate that they are involved in considering options now.
"These are not decisions we take lightly. However, we are confident that by working with our GPs we will continue to commission safe services for our patients.
"Meanwhile, with GPs, we are continuing to look at how patients can be treated more effectively in the community rather than in hospital wherever appropriate, and that people get the right treatment in the right place."