Local GP services facing multi-million deficit under Tories, campaign warns

Doctor Jackie Applebee speaking at recent KONP protest. Gina Gambetta

Local GP services across the Eastlondonlines boroughs are set to go into the red by hundreds of millions of pounds by 2023, according to new predictions.

The  Keep Our NHS Public campaign, which produced the report said it doubted whether the new Conservative Government would be able to tackle the deficit, despite promising during the election campaign to massively increase NHS spending

The NHS Cuts dataset, made by KONP, The hardest hit Eastlondonlines borough was Tower Hamlets CCG, set to be underfunded by £270m by 2023 The other Eastlondonlines boroughs are also facing bleak futures as Lewisham CCG, and NHS City and Hackney CCG are also among the top fifty affected. City and Hackney ranked 25th, and Lewisham at 43rd.  

This means that by 2023 Lewisham, Hackney, and Tower Hamlets combined could see losses equivalent to either 6,100 GPs, 20,700 nurses, 400 GP surgeries, or 600 MRI machines. 

Anna Livingstone, from Tower Hamlets KONP, told Eastlondonlines: “The projected NHS cuts in Tower Hamlets would be a complete disaster and it is no exaggeration to say they would lead to collapse of NHS services and staffing, increasing deaths and ill health.”

The data set was calculated by looking at 192 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), GP led bodies responsible for allocating funds to communities’ frontline services. They took their 2015/2016 budgets and multiplied them by inflation, population growth and historic funding growth to approximate what their 2023/2024 budgets should be. They compared this figure with CCGs budget allocations for 2023/2024. 

NHS interface. Pic. NHS Cuts

Dr Tony O’Sullivan, Co-Chair of KONP, told Eastlondonlines: “This website gives you a stark reality check on the level of underfunding of the NHS since 2015 and ongoing to 2023.” The dataset shows this is clearly a national problem and overall blame is being placed on “cuts” by the Conservative government.  KONP claim the increasing squeeze of funds will have serious adverse effects on overworked NHS staff and stretched medical resources.

Tower Hamlets’ shortfall is the equivalent to the loss of either 2,200 GPs, 7,500 nurses, 150 GP surgeries, and 240 MRI machines.  

Equivalent losses to underfunding in Tower Hamlets. Pic. Gina Gambetta

Already the average life expectancy in Tower Hamlets is substantially below the country’s average. For males in Tower Hamlets it is 61.9; the average for females is 57.2. The King’s Fund, an independent charity working to improve healthcare nationally, estimated the national life expectancy for males is 79.6 and 83.2 for females. 

Alongside the CCGs being hit, in the campaign’s study of GP practises’ comparative budgets in 2015/2016 and 2018/2019, Xx Place Health Centre, in Bromley-By-Bow, is in the top 75 of biggest losses. Between these years, the practise has lost £104,7532.  The Centre was contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication. 

The reason why Tower Hamlets CCG has been hit particularly hit is potentially twofold. Dr Jackie Applebee, a Tower Hamlets GP and Chair of Doctors Unite, explained that the NHS funding formula prioritises age over deprivation. Hence, a poor but young borough like Tower Hamlets receives less than a more affluent but older borough. She said inefficient spending on administering the NHS market and paying ‘usurious’ interest payments on PFI debt is exacerbating the situation. 

Underfunding for CCGs. Pic. Gina Gambetta

Although not in the top fifty, Croydon CCG still ranks at 52 hardest hit with a projected annual underfunding of £206,000,000.   With the inclusion of Croydon, the losses rise to 7,800 GPs, 26,500 nurses, 510 GP surgeries, or 780 MRI machines. 

Equivalent losses to underfunding in Eastlondonlines boroughs. Pic. Gina Gambetta

Applebee told Eastlondonlines: “The UK is a rich country and the NHS is very cost effective, we can afford the NHS, in fact we can’t afford not to have it!…This has to stop otherwise the NHS will be gone.” 

She said the re-election of the Conservative Government was ‘a disaster.” ”The Tories pre-election promises for funding…were inadequate and I don’t think we can trust them to honour even that. In addition there is the very real threat of the NHS being on the table in a trade deal with the US. Disaster but we will keep fighting cuts and privatisation.”

Carol Ackroyd, from Hackney KONP, told Eastlondonlines: “The NHS has been systematically underfunded by the Tory and Coalitions governments since 2010, resulting in a massive cumulative decline in funding per head of population.” 

Councillor Chris Best, Lewisham’s Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, told Eastlondonlines: “Our local health services are doing tremendous work under incredibly challenging circumstances. These figures highlight the vast underinvestment in the NHS after nearly a decade of Conservative aus terity. We need a government that invests in our NHS and ensures that our residents get the very best care possible.”

However, some have questioned the figures. Graham Atkins, Senior Researcher at the Institute For Government, told Eastlondonlines that it would inaccurate to say the data shows “cuts” or even refer to the CCGs as “underfunded.” And a spokesperson for CCG Croydon told Eastlondonlines: “As stated in our annual report, Croydon CCG was allocated £500.5m in 2018/19.  In 2019/20 the planned allocation is £530.1m.” 

However, Atkins added: “The rate of increase under the Conservative government, has been less than historical increases. The Conservative’s promised average annual increase of 3.1% for the next four years will probably be enough to meet CCG’s rising demand, but probably not enough to improve the quality of care and expand services.”

Atkins said the 2023 CCG budget KONP calculated as the necessary amount was only achievable if taxes are raised or there are cuts elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets and Lewisham CCGs told Eastlondonlines: “The finance leads at Tower Hamlets CCG…..don’t recognise the ‘estimated shortfall’ published…The financial allocations for clinical commissioning groups….are published on the NHS England website…These allocations take into account future estimates of inflation and growth across each CCG’s local area or borough.”

City and Hackney CCG responded with the same comment.

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