Temps to be hired to audit PCT accounts after dissolution

GP leaders have warned that using temporary staff to audit PCT and SHA accounts after they have been dissolved could drive up the cost of the reforms in England.

Dr Peter Holden: 'Temporary staff cost a lot of money.'
Dr Peter Holden: 'Temporary staff cost a lot of money.'

In a letter to all the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) local area teams and PCT accountable officers, the NHS’ chief financial controller, Janet Perry, said that ‘interim appointments’ could be used to fill in ‘skill or knowledge gaps’.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said hiring temporary staff will add to the rising cost of the reforms. In October health secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the reforms will cost £300m more than originally estimated, and said they would be in the region of £1.5bn to £1.6bn.

Dr Holden said: ‘Don’t underestimate the cost of these reforms. Temporary staff cost a lot of money. If they have been given the sack then they are not going to have their heart in it. You still have to know the rules.’

Ms Perry confirmed that after 1 April when PCTs and SHAs are abolished, the interim posts will be centrally funded and are likely to last until July.

The letter reads: ‘Despite the abolition of SHAs and PCTs, the department needs to ensure robust arrangements are maintained for the preparation and audit of all NHS accounts. This includes an appropriate mechanism for scrutiny and sign off.

‘The timetable for local production and audit of accounts, along with the need to support the audit of the department’s resource accounts and local management of balances on the department’s behalf means that capacity is needed within teams until the end of July 2013.’

CCGs will inherit PCT debt accumulated in this financial year. But an NHSCB spokesman said that CCGs already know their final allocations and only one PCT, NHS North Yorkshire and York, is projected to return a deficit at the end of this financial year. The PCT has projected that this will be £19m.

A DH spokesman said: ‘This will not increase costs. Costs of implementing the reforms - updated in October 2012 - took into account expenditure in 2013/14. We therefore expect costs still to be within the range of £1.5bn to £1.6bn.

‘Any costs associated with NHS reforms are one-off. By investing in these changes we will be able to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and free up extra resources - £5.5bn during this parliament and £1.5bn every year thereafter — for patient care.’

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