Campaigners say GP cuts could cause death

Landmark images in Gaywood - Vida Healthcare (Gayton Road Health Centre). ENGANL00120121128144147
Landmark images in Gaywood - Vida Healthcare (Gayton Road Health Centre). ENGANL00120121128144147

Health campaigners in West Norfolk have warned that patients will die if severe funding cuts to a group of GP surgeries are not reversed.

Practice bosses and patients’ representatives are due to meet ministers next week as the reductions in funding affecting Vida Healthcare begin to be felt.

Last week, the group, which runs six practices across the borough, confirmed it had lost its appeal against the findings of a funding review.

Managers say the measures will see them lose around £550,000 worth of funding over four years.

Officials from the West Norfolk clinical commissioning group (CCG), which is meant to decide how health service money is allocated in the borough, have said decisions relating to Vida and other affected surgery groups were taken by NHS England and will not be reviewed.

They say they have asked practices to identify the impacts of the changes as they are implemented

They have also claimed that consultations on the future shape of provision will take place when proposals are finalised.

But opponents, who have threatened legal action to halt the cuts, say that will be too little, too late and consultations should have taken place before the plans were drawn up and implemented.

Dan O’Connor, of the patient participation group at the Hollies practice in Downham, said this week: “We 37,000 Vida patients face the happy prospect of sitting quietly for four years whilst our surgeries implode around us, and patients die because of chronic underfunding of resources.

“My Patient Group colleagues and myself have lost confidence in the ability of NHS West Norfolk CCG officers to grasp the reality of the crisis now facing Vida surgeries, because of the crass decisions being made by the NHS to cut their funding, regardless of their workload.”

Vida managers and PPG representatives are due to join North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham at a meeting with ministers in Westminster next Wednesday to make their case against the cuts.

And Mr O’Connor said: “That is a point that we patients will make as strongly as we possibly can when we meet shortly with our MPs Elizabeth Truss, and Sir Henry Bellingham, and with the Health Minister Alistair Burt in London.”

West Norfolk CCG says it has been working with the five West Norfolk practices affected by the review, which was undertaken nationally by NHS England to ensure funding equity.

A spokesman said: “The premium element of funding was to provide services over and above that to be expected to be delivered within a GP setting.

“The CCG would like to assure all patients that primary care services will continue to be consistently delivered across West Norfolk.

“Any monies released as a result of NHS England undertaking these reviews will be reinvested back across all GP services in West Norfolk.

“The CCG is actively working with those practices affected by the reviews that may see a reduction in income phased across a five year period.

“The CCG has offered to meet with Mr O’Connor to assure him and to explain how GP funding is distributed on a patient per capita basis.”