A ‘tsunami of demand’ could leave NHS services in South Tyneside and Sunderland £127.5m in the red by 2021, health bosses have warned.
Strains on hospitals in the area mean they are expected to make a combined annual loss of £15m a year until reforms can be introduced.
The prediction has been made in reports prepared by South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which, together with Sunderland CCG, is beginning the second phase of its controversial Path to Excellence scheme.
Speaking at the South Tyneside CCG Governing Body meeting at Hebburn Central, Patrick Garner, programme manager with South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group, defended the policy.
He said: “We have a significant challenge ahead of us.
“We’ve talked about a tsunami of demand coming our way and we know we have more elderly patients being admitted.
“People living longer is something to be celebrated, but that also causes pressure on the health service.”
It is expected that by 2025, thirty per cent of ‘hospital activity’ for patients from South Tyneside will be for over-90s.
In Sunderland, that age group is predicted to account for about half of hospital activity.
The first phase of the Path to Excellence plans - aimed at changing the way heal services are delivered in South Tyneside and Sunderland - covers stroke, maternity and pediatric care, and have been delayed after concerned local councillors referred them to the Government.
But health bosses say they cannot afford to wait for a ruling from the Department for Health and are pushing on with the second stage, which will mainly cover outpatient services.
Staffing is one of the main areas to be reformed, with the intention of centralising teams to reduce reliance on agency staff and improve access between patients and senior doctors.
According to a South Tyneside CCG report, temporary staff covering emergency departments and hospital wards cost £11m a year.
Mr Garner said: “Temporary staff brings variability in terms of quality of care and while we have very good health care services.
“There’s too much variation between hospitals.
“We’re not hitting some of the targets we need to hit and one part of achieving that is having a senior decision maker to review patients.
“There’s a growing evidence base in terms of decision makers, where patients who see them sooner in their treatment have better outcomes.”
He added: “Working across bigger teams will help reduce reliance on temporary staff and we’re already seeing benefits in staff recruitment.”