‘Eye-watering’ underfunding of Sussex’s ambulance service by £40 million next year would put ‘patients’ lives at risk’, according to paramedics.
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is currently negotiating its contract with the 22 clinical commissioning groups across the region for 2017/18 but has so far refused to sign it due to a ‘huge financial gap’.
At a recent board meeting SECAMB acting chief executive Geraint Davies explained that they were looking at a gap of £40m between what the commissioners were offering and what the trust thought it needed to provide the resources required.
Nigel Sweet, SECAmb ambulance technician and SECAmb UNISON spokesman, described the ‘eye-watering’ underfunding the ambulance service was expected to endure next year both locally and nationally.
He said: “Our CEO stated that £40million underfunding proposed by NHS commissioners - the 22 CCGs in our area - is completely unacceptable and he has the board’s full backing alongside our UNISON members’ backing in fighting to get proper funding for SECAmb.
“Of course, the commissioners are just carrying out the Government policy of cutting £22billion from our NHS over the next few years, but both the CCGs and the Government must be shown the impact that these sort of massive NHS cuts would have on our patients’ care and the working conditions of NHS ambulance staff.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that patient care would suffer, and patients’ lives would be put at risk if these cuts go through.
“We look forward to the results of the arbitration on NHS funding gap that our board called for.”
At the board meeting Mr Davies said: “The funding gap between what we think the organisation requires to deliver the resources we need to meet the 75 per cent target and what the commissioners are currently offering is a huge financial gap. It’s roughly £40m. That means our organisation can’t in good faith sign a contract on the 23rd of December.”
Mr Davies did not expect the CCGs to fund the £40m themselves as the entire NHS was looking at £22bn being taken out of it by 2020, with pressures leading to ‘choices’ within the system.
He told the board they needed to understand what the clinical impact would be, while SECAMb would also be challenging the CCGs on what they were funding elsewhere.
The Government has asked health organisations to prepare Sustainability and Transformation Plans in order to find billions of pounds of efficiency savings, with a key theme to reduce conveyance rates to A&E hospitals.
Mr Davies said if this was the case SECAmb needed the ‘resources and skills to do that’.
He added: “Actually we could be ‘forced’ by the commissioning outcome to look at our clinical model and that clinical model might have to change to fit the resources we have been funded to do.
“That’s a very difficult thing to say as the acting chief executive because I’m very committed to the ambulance service and I’m very committed to our clinical model.”
A spokesman for SECAMB said: “The discussion at our board today reflected the potential position but is subject to further negotiation.
“We do however expect a challenging negotiation in light of the wider NHS financial position and the specific financial gap identified for the Trust in independent capacity reviews.
“We need to be clear with the public and our staff about the potential patient impact as a result of underfunding of services.”
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