THE body that makes most county NHS funding decisions has narrowly avoided an overspend after being let off bills worth millions of pounds.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) was on course to overspend £6.1m against a planned budget of £630.6m by March 31.

But it ended the financial year £300,000 under budget after agreements, including a write-off by other NHS organisations it owed cash to.

The OCCG decides where cash is spent such as in hospitals run by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUHT) and mental health teams.

But it said rising demand for services saw it billed for more than it can afford by other NHS organisations, leading to deals to avoid an overspend.

Interim chief executive Ian Wilson said: “The main reason for the budget deficit throughout the year was the increased activity for acute care, which resulted in increased spending with OUHT.

“Planned admissions were higher than in the previous year while OUHT has also had to deal with significant waiting list pressures.

“Ambulance journeys were up 5.8 per cent on last year and A&E attendances were up one per cent.

“Outpatient appointments were also higher over the year.

“The past year has been extremely challenging.”

The hospital trust – which runs Oxfordshire’s hospitals – wrote off an OCCG debt but Mr Wilson would not reveal the figure, saying it was “commercially sensitive”.

Mr Wilson said: “Despite the trust’s best efforts there has been unprecedented demand for hospital services.

“They are entitled to be paid for the extra services they provided. But they have agreed to take on some of the costs in their budget.”

NHS England also wrote off £1.2m OCCG owed for cervical cancer screening.

Mr Wilson said: “They have said because of our financial difficulties, they are allowing us not to reimburse them for it.”

Payment for £2m worth of antenatal care has also been moved into this financial year, which started on April 1.

This is because of a change in national rules that means payments can be rolled forward to the next financial year.

The group saved a further £1.2m by underspending on its IT budget.

Mr Wilson said: “This money came from a national pot and was released very late in the financial year, and we just couldn’t get rid of it all.”

The group’s budget for the current 2014/15 financial year has been increased by £14.5m to £645.1m.