£7.5m could be stripped from area’s health budget – after target is missed by 0.17%

The ambulance service narrowly missed its response time target last year

The ambulance service narrowly missed its response time target last year

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The North West’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGS) — responsible for organising healthcare throughout the county — could be handed a £7.5 million penalty, it has been revealed.

The 33 CCGs face losing top-up funding, paid out for hitting key targets, because the North West Ambulance Service did not get to 75 per cent of life-threatening calls within eight minutes last year.

Health bosses have pleaded for leniency from NHS England after the service still managed to get to 74.83 per cent of red one calls — where a patient is not breathing or their heart has stopped — despite a 40 per cent hike in emergency callouts and paramedics being caught up in handover queues at A&Es.

Talks are now being held over the Quality Premium payments.

Members of Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)’s board were told at a recent meeting the target was missed by 50 cases, but would have been hit if calls answered by the fire service in Greater Manchester, which attends cardiac arrest cases, had been counted in the figures.

“Members were informed that this would affect the 20 per cent Quality Premium across all the CCGs in the north west, and £7.5m would be lost as the target had failed,” published minutes from the meeting said.

“This had been formally raised with NHS England and further information was awaited on the impact of this on the Quality Premium payments.”

The Quality Premium is intended to reward CCGs for improving services, NHS England said, though some see it as a measure to punish services struggling to hit targets.

“As in previous years, a CCG may have its Quality Preimum award reduced,” NHS England guidance said.

“For each measure where the identified quality threshold is achieved, the CCG will be eligible for the indicated percentage of the overall funding available to it.”

As well as red one response times, targets include maximum waiting times of 18 weeks referral to treatment (worth 30 per cent), four hours in A&E (30 per cent), and 14 days for suspected cancer referrals (20 per cent).

Next year, the proportion of Quality Premium linked to ambulance response times will increase to 30 per cent, which could put bosses at NWAS under more pressure.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “We are in the process of validating and analysing the data provided.

“This is in line with all other data returns where there is a Quality Premium attached across all CCGs, and the outcomes will be communicated later in the year to all CCGs.”