CHANGES to the way health care is offered in West Berkshire, including using technology such as Skype, must be implemented as local NHS services face a shortfall in funding of almost £6m.
That is the view of NHS bosses after it was revealed that the Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will need to plug a £5.7m funding gap over the next financial year.
Berkshire West as a whole, which also includes Reading and Wokingham CCGs, is facing a £23m shortfall in funding up until 2018.
And with an ageing population putting an increasing demand on health services, director of strategy for Berkshire West CCGs, Sam Burrows, admitted the service cannot continue operating in the same way.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mr Burrows said processes were now being put in place to streamline the service.
Changes will include doctors using technology such as Skype to liaise with patients, while new care pathways will be introduced to provide a more convenient level of care, while reducing attendance at hospitals.
He said: “We’ve always had a gap to find because the cost of providing services, based on people getting older, has been rising more quickly than the funding provided.
“The funding gap is not a shock.
“We know our settlement until 2020 so we can see what we are going to get and plan accordingly, but this is the most challenging two years coming up.”
Newbury and District CCG has been allocated £146.8m of funding for the next financial year (2017/18) and £149.7m in 2018/19.
Despite the funding difficulties, Mr Burrows denied patients would be affected adversely, instead remaining adamant that any changes brought in would improve the service.
He went on: “We still have tens of thousands of people turning up to Royal Berkshire Hospital every weekend who don’t need to be there.
“Patients with long-term conditions such as circulatory problems, heart problems, diabetes etc… we are still using a model whereby you might go up to see a cardiologist one week and the next week travel again to see a diabetes specialist.
“Frankly, what we need is a clinician who looks after it all after having already spoken to the clinical specialists.”
Mr Burrows explained how 104 Berkshire patients alone cost the NHS £5m for repeated visits to Royal Berkshire Hospital in the last year.
“One individual went over 75 times,” he said
“We obviously aren’t providing what they need if they are having to go that many times.
“One of the great things about Berkshire West is we have a really strong partnership between health and local government to design interventions for our residents.
“I’m clear that we can’t go on as we are.
“There’s no money, but if that means that we re-design the things we do it will make things better.
“Newbury is getting a very exciting West Berkshire Community Hospital cancer centre.
“That’s a great example of things not staying the same, but improving.”