HEALTH bosses have approved measures to avoid a forecasted £4 million deficit.

Craven, Harrogate and Rural District Primary Care Trust says it is facing financial difficulties because patients are being dealt with more quickly than expected.

"This is having a significant effect on our finances, as we carefully plan and cost in advance how many instances of a particular procedure or operation we are expecting to be carried out over the year.

"We have asked the hospital trusts to take steps to ensure that new patients with non-urgent conditions are treated within the six-month target but not more quickly. Urgent cases will continue to be seen much more rapidly," said a PCT spokesman"

The trust board agreed on Monday to take the action to ensure it tackled the gap between its income and expenditure.

The spokesman added: "Ensuring the primary care trust's spending does not exceed the money we have in our budget is a key responsibility of the organisation.

"In its three years of existence the PCT has so far successfully delivered a balanced budget by prudently managing spending on a month-by-month basis and taking action wherever necessary to control any possible overspend.

"In the current financial year, which ends next April, the board has been alerted to the fact that the PCT is heading for a projected deficit of £4 million if present spending trends continue.

"A range of steps have already been put in place to address this in ways which do not compromise patient care outcomes, but we are aware that more action is needed.

"One issue which has become clear is that local hospitals are treating patients with non-urgent conditions significantly ahead of the six-month waiting list target set by the Department of Health.

"We have informed our partners in the hospital trusts of the detrimental effect this is having on our finances and have made local GPs aware of the situation as they are increasingly involved in decisions on how services are commissioned."