£805m health shortfall crisis

County Coun Jennifer Mein

County Coun Jennifer Mein

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Lancashire County Council has called for a radical restructuring of health and care services across the county amid predictions that services face an £805m shortfall by 2021.

It also wants to bring in outside consultants to advise on the council’s own future.

County Coun David Borrow

County Coun David Borrow

Two reports to cabinet reveal the financial meltdown which the Labour-run council claims mean public services will no longer be able to meet the needs of Lancashire residents.

The reports predicts health and social care services in the county will have a budget shortfall of at least £805m by 2020/21 and notes: “It is clear that the county council, in its present form, is not a financially sustainable organisation in the medium term; neither is the National Health Service in Lancashire.”

The council says national changes to the ways services will be offered means it can no longer “plan its future in isolation” and says it must now develop ”a future public service model for Lancashire” in conjunction with its partners.

A hard-hitting report states: “Lancashire County Council is not alone in this financial challenge.

The county council, in its present form, is not a financially sustainable organisation in the medium term

“The whole of the public sector in Lancashire is facing severe financial conditions that give rise to fundamental questions as to the nature, scale and sustainability of public services in the county.”

Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen and Cumbria County Council, as well as NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Group would all join talks about pooling health and care budgets for pan-Lancashire services, with an emphasis on preventative care as well as treatment.

The county’s cabinet was asked to approve the appointment of independent consultants to assist in reviewing and developing the council’s “future business and operating model” as it faces “fundamental reconfiguration”.

Part of their role will be to prepare a report for the Communities and Local Government Minister and the Treasury on the minimum funding needed to provide legally required public services in the county and the emergency actions which would need to be taken if the council - which has given itself the highest level risk rating for its longer term financial viability – is not able to set a legal budget.

Meanwhile Council leader County Coun Jenny Mein and deputy leader Coun David Borrow stepped up their campaign for more funding lobbying county MPs in London earlier this week.

Coun Borrow said: “We need to get the Government to understand the level of resources we need in order to deliver statutory services.”

In addition the public expected other non statutory services which also came at a cost.

The council knows it must find ways of living within its diminishing means and meeting its legal obligations. It says the time has come to look outside for efficiencies working with other public service providers, with the proposed Combined Authority for Lancashire able to provide a context for consideration of public service “issues”.

It notes police, fire and rescue services, district and unitary councils all face cutbacks up to 2021.

Coun Mein also unveiled a vision of integrated health and care services across the whole of the county.

On central Government orders all parts of the country must by 2017 have a locally led plan for health and social care integration in place, ready to be put into action in 2020.

In Lancashire this is being developed as the Lancashire and South Cumbria Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

If acceptable it will open doors to special Government funding.

Coun Mein said: “I think it’s exciting. It’s a complete system change for all parties involved. Obviously it’s early days.”

She said the council was looking to see services integrated across the entire county and south Cumbria , adding: “The plan hasn’t been written yet. The call is out. I wait with interest the individual plans that are presented. We’ve talked about it for a long time.

The five health economy areas identified to work together are: East Lancashire, Fylde coast (including Blackpool), Morecambe Bay (including South Cumbria), Central Lancashire and West Lancashire.