GP partner and LMC CEO Dr Dean Eggitt offers his tips on how to bid successfully for remaining end-of-year funds from your CCG
NHS England devolves funding to CCGs from year to year, with a financial year end of 31 March. Through this financial year, CCGs have an obligation to finance certain mandated activities but also have an obligation to aspire to improve the health of a population by funding aspirational projects.
Where a CCG can successfully fund the ‘must dos’, any surplus can then be directed toward ‘like to dos’. As organisations that are unable to retain profits, CCGs aim for their income and outgoings to match.
A prudent CCG will aim for the safety of a year-end underspend, but must then invest any surplus resource into projects to ensure that no profit is retained into the next financial year.
Given that CCGs are not eligible to be provider organisations, they require assistance from providers to bring any of these aspirational projects to life. The short notice and non-recurring nature of this funding stream demands wise CCGs and local providers have draft contracts for simple projects set aside and ready to be mobilised at a moment’s notice.
Some CCGs put out calls to providers for ideas on how to use any year-end surplus, while others do not. Either way, it is worth making a habit of contacting your CCG in the early new year to ask if there is any available underspend to apply for.
Examples of successful project bids I’ve been involved in include schemes to fund care home visits, the purchase of diagnostic equipment, pharmacist-led medicines optimisation and extended hours capacity and, more recently, a project to improve the health of local primary care clinicians.
The success of your application will depend upon a number of fairly basic but often overlooked factors – below are some pointers.
Complex projects are unlikely to be funded as they can have too many unintended consequences. A year-end project must be rapidly mobilised and if your project requires significant time to consider the risks of harm to the local health and social care system then you will struggle to convince CCG colleagues that it is a good idea.
The CCG has a job to do which may at times seem to conflict with your opinion of what high quality care looks like. While your project may make perfect sense to you and may be evidence based, if it does not meet the aims and needs of the CCG, they are unlikely to fund it. Read the CCG commissioning strategy and aim to appeal to their needs. Ideas that meet current political trends are also appealing. For example, a Doncaster LMC project to improve health of local primary care clinicians is linked to the national and local GP workforce retention and resilience agendas.
Year-end money is a great time to consider health care pilots as the resource is non-recurring. However, no one wants to waste money on vanity projects. Consequently, if you can demonstrate impact of your project by measuring outcomes then you can demonstrate value in the investment.
Don’t forget that CCGs are funded from year to year and are not allowed to retain a profit. If you are unable to take receipt of the financial allocation before the end of the financial year for logistical reasons, then you are not meeting the need of the CCG by helping them to balance their budget. If you won’t, then someone else will.
If you find you are not in a position to accept funds, try to learn from this and ensure that your logistics are ready to go for the next financial year end.
CCGs are buyers of health and social care and are accountable to taxpayers in how they spend their allocations. A CCG is more likely to invest in a project originating from a provider with a consistent track record in delivering reliable high-quality services, so highlight examples demonstrating where you have reliably delivered quality services to specification.
If your organisation is known locally for having contract breaches, you are unlikely to attract extra investment.
Despite there being a large number of different funding pots available with different names, the schemes often tend to resource similar ideas. Don’t be put off for applying for funding because the name of the funding pot sounds different to your idea. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Having said that, projects will be rejected if it is seen as double funding. A commissioner will not pay for the same piece of work twice.
Funding is often available, but at short notice. Have a few worked up ideas written up and ready to go. You might not be able to use it this year, or even next, but at some stage, your idea will be given the green light. Resources are often wasted on last minute ideas because of a lack of pre-prepared plans.
Don’t submit a plan that requires recurrent investment – no one predicts the NHS to be in good financial health into the future.
Try to think beyond the boundaries of your own practice. If you can use resources to bring in team members from outside, you will provide vital capacity for your team and patients.
Your LMC will usually have a wealth of experience and local knowledge they can provide that will help you show your CCG you are serious and have a well-thought out plan. They will ‘sense check’ your idea and help you to create a draft outline of your proposal including what funding you need.
Dr Dean Eggitt is a GP partner and Doncaster LMC CEO
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