Directors of Huddersfield’s NHS, which could end the year in debt for the first time, have spoken out against ‘fantastically difficult’ targets set by NHS England.

Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plans to break even at the end of the year.

But the organisation, which manages Huddersfield’s NHS services, is now predicting a £3.6m overspend.

With all its contingency reserves spent, it could be the first time the CCG fails to achieve an end-of-year surplus.

Under NHS England guidelines, CCGs must end the year with a 1% surplus. Those that fail to achieve this may face sanctions.

Now beleaguered Huddersfield CCG chiefs have spoken out against the financial targets set by their bosses at NHS England.

Speaking at a CCG board meeting at Broadlea House in Huddersfield, finance director Ian Currell said breaking even would be a ‘fantastically difficult’ task.

Chief officer Carol McKenna said while NHS England was ‘not happy’ that the CCG planned to break even – rather than deliver a surplus – a break-even would still be a ‘major challenge.’

Meanwhile CCG safety chief, Penny Woodhead, criticised the pressure from NHS England.

Greater Huddersfield CCG head of quality and safety, Penny Woodhead

She said: “It’s almost being set up so that money is more important than quality.”

Board member and Lindley GP, Dr Matt Kaye, noted that other CCGs were likely to be faced with similarly difficult financial targets.

He said: “If everybody fails then you can say that NHS England’s budgeting is wrong.”

Much of the forecast deficit is caused by pressure on acute care, for example, intensive care after a severe injury or illness.

Health bosses have predicted a £5.8m overspend on acute care this year.

The CCG, however, said it would save money by predicted underspends in mental health, primary care and other areas.

In June, Greater Huddersfield CCG said it would have to save £6.5m to break even.

The CCG said it hoped to save money in the prevention and treatment of falls, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, heart disease and skin disease together with flu and pneumonia.

The organisation was ordered by NHS England to draft a recovery plan after declaring it would not be able to achieve a surplus at the end of 2016/17.