HEALTH bosses are aiming to tackle high blood pressure, alcohol abuse and the misuse of antibiotics as part of a bid to save nearly £1 billion.

NHS sustainability and transformation plans in Cheshire and Merseyside aim to make savings of £909 million across the region by 2020.

Simon Banks, chief officer of NHS Halton Clinical Commissioning Group, outlined some of the schemes that are now underway in Runcorn and Widnes as part of STP during a public meeting on Monday.

Addressing Halton People’s Health Forum, Mr Banks said that work was being done to move towards preventative treatment in order to cut costs.

He said: “It’s estimated that there will be just shy of a billion pound shortfall in funding if we do nothing so we need a fresh approach to how we tackle causes of poor health.

“It costs £199 to treat someone with hypertension per year, but if they were to have a stroke it would cost thousands of pounds.

“We need to identify people with high blood pressure and change their lifestyles and we need to identify people who are abusing alcohol which has massive costs in terms of hospital admissions and anti-social behaviour.

“With antibiotics we have a situation where people go in for routine operations that are no longer safe because the bacteria is starting to develop a resistance, so we need to decide who gets antibiotics from now on.

“We have to unlearn the way we have worked in the NHS for the last 30 years as commissioners and providers.”

A pilot scheme to offer extra GP appointments over the festive holidays had a poor response.

Mr Banks said: “Over the Christmas period we put on 210 additional GP appointments in addition to out of hours on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the bank holidays.

“Of the 210 additional slots 12 were used.

“We cannot be offering additional services at a cost if people are not going to use them.”

He said the extra GP appointments had cost £80,000.

However, despite the low uptake, health chiefs plan to repeat the scheme and offer additional GP appointments over the Easter holiday.