Campaigners press minister over West Norfolk surgery cash cuts

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Health campaigners have urged the public to join their fight against funding cuts affecting a group of West Norfolk GP surgeries.

The plea came after Vida Healthcare managers and patients’ representatives met a government minister to plead for a rethink of the measures.

But, with a reprieve looking unlikely and concern growing about the impact of the changes, campaigners say they need much wider support for their effort to stop the changes.

Downham patients representative Dan O’Connor said: “Unless patients and the public in general actually do something about that reality now, they are likely to see their health service decimated.”

Mr O’Connor was among a group of patients’ representatives and Vida practice managers who met health minister Alistair Burt at Westminster on Wednesday, alongside MP Sir Henry Bellingham.

Earlier this month, the group confirmed it had lost its appeal against plans to impose around £550,000 of reductions to its funding, which it says are already having an effect.

Opponents insist the measures are illegal, as they have not been the subject of a formal public consultation.

However, local health commissioners have indicated that wider discussions will only take place once plans for the future of services are drawn up.

Service chiefs have also argued that the measures are necessary to ensure cash is spent where it is most needed.

Sir Henry said: “It was a very constructive meeting. I hope we were able to convince the minister that it makes no sense taking funds away from a centre of excellent that has been doing everything asked of it by the department.”

He also plans to write to Mr Burt to reiterate the issues raised.

But Mr O’Connor said he and his colleagues felt the minister could not address their concerns.

He said: “We felt that whilst Alistair Burt understood our concerns, he seems unable to do anything.

“The Health Secretary seems to be determined to force through the cuts, without any consultation whatsoever with patients or public.

“Waiting times, already almost four weeks at Vida surgeries for a non-urgent appointment, will get even longer and cuts in other services will continue.

“All of this will have a direct effect on care. That will impact on patients’ health and, ultimately, their mortality.”

He also argues the measures don’t take account of the impact of further funding cuts elsewhere in the NHS.