£60 million Essex health budget deficit set to worsen without change

The chief executive of the body responsible for health and care needs across Mid and South Essex has said without innovation and change its serious financial deficit will get worse.

Mid and South Integrated Care System (ICS) is struggling to keep within its £2.5 billion annual budget. The most recent financial figures show that by financial year-end it will have accrued a deficit of £60 million – a sum which will have to be paid back.

That is up from £52m in October, £45m in September and £39m in August. Its original deficit plan for 2023/24 was £40.3m. Mid and South ICS covers Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Maldon, Braintree and Rochford.

Integrated care systems are a partnership of organisations that plan, buy, and provide health and care services in their geographical area. The organisations involved include the NHS, local authorities, voluntary and charity groups, and independent care providers. Mid and South Essex ICS managers say the year-to-date position at Mid and South largely reflects the current shortfall in efficiency programme delivery which was set to mitigate the impact of rising risk. However, workforce pressures continue to drive high levels of spend within our provider sector.

Tracy Dowling, interim chief executive officer of Mid and South Essex Mid and South Integrated Care System said there was insufficient “change capacity” inside the system needed for the “for the quantum of change we need to deliver in a relatively short period of time”.

She added external partners would be key to delivering the financial recovery in ways that are also improvements in terms of clinical access and clinical performance.”

She said: “I do think that it will be really easy in a situation of extreme financial constraint to lose hope and think this is just about cuts and about reducing actually this is also a time we need as leaders to be hopeful. We can get ourselves to a better place and can engage our clinicians with that change.

She added: “We will have to make difficult choices and some of those things will be in the short term perhaps things you wouldn’t want to do in the longer term because we have got to get control of the financial situation and be clear what the transformation for the short medium and longterm looks like.”

ICB chairman, Professor Michael Thorne, said: “My experience is often that trying to be more efficient can actually help you on a journey of improvement if you use your brain.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter