St Albans healthcare body improves NHS England rating to ‘good’ after cutbacks on drugs and surgery

The headquarters of Herts Valleys CCG in Hemel Hempstead. Picture: Google.

The headquarters of Herts Valleys CCG in Hemel Hempstead. Picture: Google. - Credit: Archant

The body which funds healthcare in St Albans has improved its NHS England rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’.

In its 2017/18 annual assessment, Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) was commended by NHS England for its financial performance after meeting its statutory financial duties in 2017/18 and planning requirements for 2018/19.

HVCCG chief executive Kathryn Magson says: “This is an excellent result that shows great progress and is a huge testament to the hard work and commitment by our GP membership, clinicians and the wider CCG staff during 2017/18.

“It’s a great platform on which to build as we address challenges that remain around urgent and emergency care.

“Our work to enhance community services to avoid the need for people needing hospital treatment and also to support hospital discharges is critical to sustainable improvement.

“Delivery of these new community-based services remains a key area of focus for the CCG and we are already underway with this work having launched some new services and being in the process of redesigning and recommissioning others.

“At the same time we will retain our relentless approach in working with GPs and other providers to make sure we deliver quality care for our patients, including reducing waiting times for treatments, while continuing to balance the books.”

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In the 2017/18 financial year, HVCCG made a number of savings, including cutting IVF treatments and the number of prescription drugs and restricting vasectomy and female sterilisation treatments.

Other savings introduced are smokers being breathalysed to show they have quit and obese people being required to reduce their weight or body mass index before either of them can have non-emergency surgery.

HVCCG chair Nicolas Small said: “This is an extremely positive report for the CCG. We have worked hard over the past year to strengthen the organisation and the acknowledgement we have a firm grasp of quality, performance and finance – all underpinned by clear governance arrangements - is very welcome.

“As well as making sure we continue with our own organisational delivery, we’ll also be focusing more in the coming year on working with other organisations across the Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership so we deliver as a wider health and social care system – building on the strong engagement and partnership working that is in place.”

Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are where the NHS and councils work together on health care and social care arrangements.

Dr Small continued: “Given the increasing number of frail patients and people with complex care needs we all need to work more collaboratively to help people live long, healthy lives and to make sure that services continue to be sustainable.”

HVCCG has been nominated for a best practice case study due to its ‘excellent’ stakeholder feedback, which NHS England said demonstrated strong engagement and partnership working.

Chair of the St Albans Patients Group John Wigley said: “HVCCG have had to deal with big issues during the last year. They had a programme to trying to reduce expenditure on medicines which people could get over the counter rather than being paid for on prescription. That has been a success and not very controversial.

“But they ran into adverse publicity on the closure of Nascot Lawn and that was something they did not wish to do. There were financial pressures and I think they were obliged by NHS auditors to reduce it as it was a discretionary expenditure rather than a necessary one.

“I think the key difference has been one of internal management inside the CGG under Kathryn Magson. As far as I can see she took quite immediate steps to try and run back unnecessary, or perhaps extravagant, expenditure. So she introduced a rule that any section which wanted to spend over £10,000 had to be personally approved by her, which was a step in the right direction.

“The report has recognised her leadership and management skills as she leads from the front, but in a very collaborative way.”