The NHS body responsible for planning and commissioning local healthcare in Canterbury has been placed into special measures after ending the last financial year with a £9.5 million deficit.
NHS England has also applied special measures to the Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which reported a £13m deficit, the South East Coast CCG which had a £7.3m deficit and the Thanet CCG, which broke even.
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Now a senior NHS official has warned that the CCGs won’t be able to tackle the region’s health problems until the reconfiguration of acute and specialist services is complete, which includes the decision over the new hospital in Canterbury.
Glenn Douglas, the accountable officer for the clinical commissioning groups across Kent and Medway, is also overseeing the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) which set out how health services should be provided for the next five years.
He suggested that special measures “would focus people’s minds” on the job at hand.
And he said there is work to be done ahead of the reconfiguration of emergency and specialist services in the area.
It is likely to see services centralised in either Ashford or Canterbury, but a consultation due this year has been postponed until early 2019.
Mr Douglas said: “We can’t solve all of the problems until there is a strategic decision but there is a lot that we can do.
“Moving forward we need to generate the confidence in the system that makes it an investible proposition.”
The east Kent hospitals trust, which is the main health service provider in the area, is also in financial special measures with a deficit of £21 million.
These figures have alarmed health campaigners.
Ken Rogers, chairman of Concern for Health in East Kent, said: “I hope this does not lead to top down management from NHS Improvement, otherwise decisions may no longer be taken locally and the process could be held up further.
“The delay in sorting out acute care and the consultation is a daily financial burden. In particular, the temporary removal of services from Canterbury last June has put huge hardship on the CCG, not least with additional cost of moving patients by ambulance.
“A longer wait for the consultation is unacceptable and the STP programme should be accelerated. Things are starting to move forward and we must not let the process stall.”