Health secretary defends funding decision on West Norfolk GPs

Landmark images in Gaywood - Vida Healthcare (Gayton Road Health Centre). ENGANL00120121128144147
Landmark images in Gaywood - Vida Healthcare (Gayton Road Health Centre). ENGANL00120121128144147
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Overall funding of GP surgeries in West Norfolk will not be reduced, even if funding cuts are implemented on one group of practices, ministers have insisted.

The assurance has been given in separate letters to the borough’s MPs related to the ongoing threat to the funding of surgeries run by Vida Healthcare.

But patients’ representatives say the comments do not address their concerns or reduce the prospect of legal action to resolve the dispute.

In his letter to South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “There will be no reduction in the overall level of GP funding in each area as a result of the review.

“NHS England is committed to ensuring that the review process is carried out in a fair and consistent manner, and has put in place assurance arrangements to make sure this happens.”

Mr Hunt said a review had found that surgeries operating under personal medical services (PMS) contracts, like Vida’s were generally delivering services at a higher cost than those with general contracts.

He said most PMS practices had also failed to show the additional services they offered were not adequately provided elsewhere.

He added: “The re-investment of funding in the East region will be targeted to support all general practice in the area and to support direct patient care.”

A similar letter was also sent to North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham by junior health minister Alistair Burt.

But campaigners say there is no logic in reallocating money to other practices when all surgeries are under pressure.

Dan O’Connor, a member of the patient participation group at the Hollies practice in Downham, one of six run by Vida, said: “Reallocating the money elsewhere in the county will be of absolutely no benefit whatsoever to Vida’s 30,000 plus patients when their surgery services are cut.”

They also maintain the letters also fail to address their claim that health service chiefs acted illegally in imposing the funding cuts without carrying out a public consultation exercise.

A legal challenge has already been lodged over a similar case in Yorkshire and patients’ groups here have warned they are prepared to take similar action unless the cuts are reversed.

A London legal firm, Leigh Day, has also threatened to seek an urgent judicial review if the funding cuts are not suspended.