HEALTH chiefs in Lancashire are preparing for NHS England to step in and take action amid a deficit of nearly £160m.

NHS trusts, including East Lancashire Hospitals, are reporting a £109.5m gap - which is more than £21.5m off their year-end target of £80.5m

And the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) itself is running at a £50.4m deficit when it wanted to break even.

Though the provider trusts are forecasting they will hit the £80.5m target by the end of next March Kevin Lavery, ICB chief executive, is predicting NHS England (NHSE) will intervene.

Mr Lavery has told board members Lancs and South Cumbria had been using a range of potential finance controls including those around consultancies, contract renewals and staff vacancies.

And a three-year recovery plan, thought to be sound, had been agreed with NHSE, though this is being jeopardised by the deficit.

Mr Lavery adds in a report: "Unfortunately, we are not making enough progress and our month six position means that we are now preparing for intervention from NHS England.

"Intervention is not how it should be done. It is much better to get it right first time, rather than intervene after the event.

"We need to make sure that any intervention adds value and helps improve our year-end position and our future transformation.

"We need targeted support from specialists and experts from the national team, who are able to take an objective view of specific areas that would benefit from intervention.

"We will therefore ask for support in relation to certain areas of commissioning, transformation programmes that are encountering barriers, and the trusts in our system that are most financially off-plan."

In a separate report, ICB chief finance officer Sam Proffitt has outlined some of the ongoing pressures being faced by NHS trusts and his own board.

For East Lancs Hospitals, there is a reported £9.6m variance, which is being attributed to slippage against their costs improvement programme, unachieved stretch targets and strike action.

An equivalent position is reported for the Preston-based Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, with an £11.2m variance, because of broadly similar factors.

Mental health provider Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation- Trust is running at a £3.2m variance, which has been put down to costly out of area patient placements.

The issues will be discussed by the ICB at their monthly meeting in County Hall, Preston, on Wednesday.