Chief executive at controversial St Helens health CCG resigns

Professor Steve Cox was clinical chief executive when St Helens CCG proposed axing 'non-urgent' referrals to local hospitals
Professor Steve Cox was clinical chief executive when St Helens CCG proposed axing 'non-urgent' referrals to local hospitals

The chief executive of St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group, who came under fire for his part in a plan to axe non-urgent referrals of patients to local hospitals, is to step down from his role.

Professor Steve Cox, who had practiced as a GP in Thatto Heath, had served as clinical chief executive at the cash-strapped CCG.

He cited a desire to focus on his clinical praCtice as well as “developing federated practices” and “academic interests” in his decision to resign.

Prof Cox said: “I wish the CCG every success in the future in particular in managing the current financial challenges”.

Geoffrey Appleton, lay chairman at the CCG, said: “I want to place on record my personal thanks to Steve for all he has done for the CCG and for his contribution to improving health in the Borough. It is due in no small part to his leadership that we have such a strong relationship with the local authority and his commitment to integration with them.

“His leadership and contribution in setting up the CCG, gaining authorisation and the creation of the People’s Board has been immense. We all wish him well as he now focuses on his clinical work for which he is so rightly admired, not least by his patients.”

St Helens CCG was heavily criticised earlier this summer after it proposed suspending the non-urgent referral of patients to local hospitals for financial reasons, with doctors leaders calling the move “unacceptable”.

At the time Dr Richard Vautrey, British Medical Association GP committee deputy chair, said: “This is an unacceptable decision which highlights the incredible financial pressure facing general practice and its impact on patient care.

“It cannot be right that the public will be effectively denied access to healthcare because the local CCG has run out of money.

“What apparently may not be urgent at first presentation and is therefore not referred could turn out to be very serious in the long term.

“Many cases of cancer are subsequently diagnosed following routine referrals of patients who have undifferentiated symptoms early on in their illness.

“The cost to the health service of delaying referrals could ultimately be much greater in the long term as more complex and costly problems develop as a result.

“This is yet another sign of how desperately under-funded the NHS now is and how the government need to step up their commitment to resolving this crisis.”