HEALTH chiefs could struggle to pay for vital treatments because of a worsening NHS cash crisis.

Southend Hospital is expected to plunge into the red this year because of financial troubles at the groups which pay for NHS health care across south Essex.

Both Southend Clinical Commissioning Group and its counterpart in Castle Point and Rochford could struggle to fund treatments at the hospital and community clinics this year as they try to find millions of pounds in savings.

The groups, responsible for funding hospital and community clinic treatments, are holding emergency talks with health bosses to discuss how to fund NHS care without impacting on services due to financial strains.

The Echo revealed last month how Southend Hospital was facing a £4.8million funding black hole in its around £270million budget this year, due to not getting the full money it requested from the clinical commissioning groups.

Bosses at the commissioning groups have now confirmed it is due to their facing their own financial difficulties.

Nationally, NHS England has set a requirement for all clinical commissioning groups to keep a surplus of 1 per cent of their annual budgets.

This means both Southend and Castle Point and Rochford groups, which have annual budgets of around £200million, are breaching this as they should have surpluses of around £2million each.

Southend Clinical Commissioning Group has also gone into the red while it struggles to find £8million savings, with a deficit of £2million expected this financial year.

James O’Sullivan, Southend Hospital’s chief financial officer, expects the trust to go into deficit as a result.

He said: “The trust is projecting a deficit of £720,000 in the current financial year.

“The whole of the local health economy is facing a financial challenge and we will to continue to work with our commissioners to identify opportunities to deliver the best value for money in our provision of healthcare.”

A joint statement from both commissioning groups said: “It is recognised across the south east Essex healthcare system that in order to achieve affordability of services offered to patients without compromising on clinical quality or patient outcomes, the system must operate collectively and in a different way.

“As the lead commissioner for hospital services in south east Essex, Southend Clinical Commissioning Group is working with the hospital to deliver a joint improvement plan, which will help create a more sustainable health economy in south east Essex.

“The groups are also working on other schemes aimed at supporting the hospital and taking the pressure off A&E.”