The NHS will receive an immediate cash injection of up to £100m to support local community-based services during the winter months.
The additional ‘frontline commissioning funding’, which has been allocated to the emerging Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), must be committed for specific purposes by mid-February or returned to the DH.
The money, amounting to £2 per patient, is to be spent on developing local care services and reducing unnecessary hospital admissions; as such, its remit may include prescribing.
While it may soften the immediate frontline impact of cuts in NHS spending, the new cash injection is only 2% of the £5bn ‘efficiency savings’ required of the NHS in 2012.
Consistent with the DH policy of shifting the focus of healthcare from acute to community-based services, the funding could (for example) be spent on improving patient access to GP services, improving services provided to nursing homes, or developing home-based services.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “I am pleased to be able to give the NHS up to £100 million in extra funding to spend directly on local frontline care for their patients during the winter months.”
He emphasised that giving a cash boost to the new CCGs would strengthen the role of local clinicians and thereby ensure that patients “receive the right care according to their individual needs”.
The money must be signed off by the PCT clusters for specific service improvement purposes: it cannot be used to help cover the cost of existing services.
This is the first time that the DH has specifically identified funding to be allocated to the new CCGs, though PCTs already delegate commissioning funds to support the CCGs in providing services.
CCGs will need to inform their PCT clusters how the funding will be utilised by mid-February 2012; each PCT cluster will similarly need to inform the relevant SHA cluster by the end of February 2012, and money not allocated will be returned to the DH.
This funding window provides an added incentive for pharmaceutical companies to demonstrate the value of their solutions for community-based healthcare.