Cuts threaten to close vital NHS service preventing unnecessary hospital stays

Cambridgeshire health chiefs are threatening to shut down a vital service preventing thousands of over-65s going to hospital unnecessarily, UNISON warns today.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), responsible for planning and commissioning local NHS services, is planning £33 million of cuts next year to plug part of its £192m government funding deficit.

The plans are laid out in a 1,000-page document due to be discussed by the CCG board today. It includes suggestions to review all community and non-hospital services so that their funding can be reduced or stopped entirely.

One of the services at risk is the Joint Emergency Team, which supports people over the age of 65 or those with long-term conditions in their home when they become very unwell and need urgent care.

Nearly 9,000 people were referred to the service last year to get the medical help they need without having to go through the ordeal of a hospital stay. The CCG estimates that decommissioning the team would mean an extra five people visiting A&E every day.

The CCG says cutting the service will save £1.8m in the first year but UNISON warns that this does not take into account the costs of lengthy hospital stays that are avoided because of the team’s intervention or the likelihood of redundancy payments if the highly specialised staff cannot be redeployed.

If the service goes, already stretched GP surgeries will be expected to carry out the visits instead.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Jo Rust said: “CCG chiefs may think they’re avoiding the public furore caused by closing A&E departments or shutting wards, but cuts to these ‘hidden’ community services hurt every bit as much as cuts to hospitals.

“And by chopping away at services that keep people out of hospitals, commissioners are simply placing a bigger financial burden on other parts of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s NHS, unnecessarily putting thousands of people into local hospital beds.

“The Joint Emergency Team is not only managing to keep people out of hospital where possible, it’s doing it at excellent value to the taxpayer. But CCG bosses want to shut it down without so much as a consultation.

“Of course at the root of the problem is the multimillion-pound gap between the cash available to the NHS from Westminster and what the public actually needs and expects from our National Health Service.

“Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG bosses should be standing up for a fully funded NHS, not savagely cutting the services that they hope people won’t notice.”

As well as the Joint Emergency Team, the CCG plans to cease funding or decommission: Dial a Ride, The Alzheimers Society, The Stroke Association, The Carers Network, The Evelyn Community Head Injury Service, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Oliver Zangwell, Evolutio ophthalmology and the health and wellbeing network.