A CAMPAIGN group has warned health authorities across the East are being played against each other after it was revealed more than £600,000 will be taken from Southend to pick up the bill for a failing neighbour.

Southend’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will contribute £610,000 towards a struggling health authority which represents Cambridge and Peterborough as part of a £5million bailout from health authorities across the East of England.

The money will help the Cambridge and Peterborough CCG to pay off a deficit of £142million.

NHS England has said the measure is part of “joined-up” working which will ensure high quality care for patients.

But Tim Sneller, chairman of Save Southend NHS, has said it highlights how underfunded the health service has become.

He said: “Save Southend NHS [is] wholly against yet another attempt to play different areas of our NHS off against each other with this latest news highlighting the continued chronic underfunding of our NHS as a whole.

“This is yet another attempt to divert blame from the Government’s failure to fund any NHS organisation adequately over a number of years.

“We do not wish to hear more bureaucratic phrases about ‘joint working’ and demand that politicians and NHS leaders turn their fire on Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock and the Conservative Government who are responsible for this chaos.

“Our representatives must stand up and fight for the funding that people who use the NHS in Cambridge and Peterborough clearly need, instead of just rolling over and demanding cash from other cash strapped CCG areas, thus subjecting residents to further postcode lotteries for the care they require.”

Southend Council leader Ian Gilbert added: “It makes a mockery of the system of governance if the way service is fragmented means people in Southend are paying a price for decisions taken in Peterborough or Cambridge, which they have no influence over, its strikes me that the Government created a fragmented system, realised it wasn’t working and are trying to arbitrarily move money through the system.

“It is dreadful to see Southend further disadvantaged by that.”

The money is said to be a repayable contribution and would be returned within three years. Councillor Trevor Harp who oversees health in Southend said he understand that money will be taken from the CCG’s contingency fund and is unlikely to directly impact services.

Caroline Rassell, senior responsible officer for Locality Health and Care in the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), said: “The East of England region is experiencing particular financial challenges and one of our neighbouring STPs, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, is struggling to meet their financial target of containing their deficit to £142m.

“The five other STPs in the East of England including Mid and South Essex have been asked to improve their own financial performance by about £5m to offset that.”

How it impacts the rest of South Essex

Across south Essex all CCGs have been notified they will have to contribute towards paying off the deficit. The Castle Point and Rochford CCG has been asked for £579,000 while Basildon and Brentwood CCG will have to contribute £788,000.

but the largest amount is being requested from Mid Essex CCG which is expected to hand over £1,043,000.

Councillor James Halden, who is responsible for health at Thurrock Council, said: “Here is a large deficit in one part of the nation that gets paid for by stealing money from South Essex. This is the consequence of generations of politicians and commentators putting the NHS on such a pedestal where we only ever demand more cash without correct financial responsibility.

“One would hope that this would serve as an example to the central and senior NHS machine that they need to be reined in, told to focus less on their permanent restructure, and return to basics by getting their house in good fiscal order.”

Among the five CCGs in the region Thurrock is being asked for the smallest amount of £480,000,