Needs of the patient must be at heart of discussions

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The figures make for pretty alarming reading. In an NHS already challenged by growing demand yet restricted by ever-tightening budgets, we now learn that two health trusts have got to try to claw back a £27m overspend.

Solent NHS Trust needs to make a saving of £16m, while Southern Health NHS Trust has to recoup £11.2m by the end of March next year.

These are tough targets and the inevitable result will be a reduction in what is provided – both trusts are responsible for mental health services, with Solent predominantly delivering in Portsmouth and Southern Health in Hampshire.

Though the exact nature of the cutbacks is yet to be decided, we know areas that could be hit include social care, physiotherapy and home visits.

To the people who benefit from these services, they are vital. Losing them would be a big blow. And that’s what must not be forgotten as the trust bean counters stare at their balance sheets.

The NHS is a massive organisation, but it deals with many individuals who rely on it to help them in their daily lives. The concern is that they will end up suffering through no fault of their own.

As well as the threat to front-end services, Solent says £4m of savings have been identified through stopping all ‘non-essential’ expenditure, including not filling non-clinical posts and cutting back on agency staff.

We appreciate the health trusts have a very difficult job. They will say savings have to be found somewhere.

But if community services are cut, surely the risk is that more people will stay in hospital instead – and that will cost more than the savings being made.

Difficult debates and decisions lie ahead. But at the heart of them must always be the needs of the patient.