SOUTHEND Clinical Commissioning Group is facing special measures over a £7million deficit, it has emerged.

The group says it has struggled to meet rising healthcare demands and has the huge shortfall in the £18.2million it needed to save this year.

On Thursday, NHS England announced it had applied to have NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group placed into special measures.

Rachel Webb, locality director for NHS England Midlands and East, said: “If approved, this will put additional support in place for the CCG to help make the improvements required.”

The application has to be agreed by NHS England nationally and could take several weeks.

Following the move, the group said it had struggled make the necessary savings it needed to this year.

Ian Stidston, accountable officer at NHS Southend CCG, said: “NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group is not currently in special measures. Within Southend, we continue to face significant financial challenges, with an ongoing rise in demand for services and the associated increase in costs.

“At the beginning of this financial year, in order to meet our financial plan, we identified that we needed to make savings in excess of £18.2million. As of this month we have identified a risk of £7million within this financial year.”

Mr Stidston added: “We have been completely transparent with both our local population and NHS England over the past few years about our increasing financial challenges. NHS England has now expressed a view that we should work more closely together, with NHS England offering additional support to identify potential solutions to these challenges.

“In order to facilitate this, NHS England has made an application to place NHS Southend CCG in special measures. If approved, this would also provide assurance that our agreed action plans are effective and achievable.”

The group said it was looking at a number of ways to make savings, particularly in providing more healthcare in the community.

A spokesman said: “We are achieving this through the development of four localities within the borough of Southend and, in turn, releasing capacity within the primary care workforce.

“Our vision is to centre health and care provision on natural communities based on clusters of GP practices. Our four localities bring together health, social care and third-sector services and will ultimately be responsible for coordinating out-of-hospital care for the local population.”

The approach is expected to allow better co-ordination of complex cases and will be centred on preventative care to prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital.

Each local team will consist of social workers, community nursing staff, mental health workers, pharmacists and voluntary-sector carers working alongside GPs.

Each team will develop plans for a patient and helping the patient to self-manage and work towards preventative care.

The group is also looking at trimming services, including providing gluten free food on prescription for coeliac sufferers and spinal pain relief injections.

It is also looking at cutting IVF treatment for infertile couples. The moves are currently out to consultations which has been extended by two weeks to Wednesday, November 9. The group has consistently failed to meet targets across a range of services.

A performance report revealed four-hour A&E waiting targets were missed, with just 91.5 per cent of patients being seen against a 95 per cent target.

Cancer treatment waiting times were also missed and a “lack of alternative provision for respiratory patients” had led to a high number of sick patients ending up in A&E. The report by Michelle Angell, assistant director of performance and governance, for the clinical commission group’s governing body, said: “The achievement of national and local performance indicators in Southend is currently challenging with local delivery reflecting the national picture.”