Health chiefs have been urged to “back off” from imposing controversial funding cuts on a group of West Norfolk GP surgeries, amid growing opposition to the idea.
Campaigners who are fighting the proposed budget reductions affecting Vida Healthcare say they are encouraged by the increasing strength of feeling against the measures, which are part of a nationwide contract review.
But local health commissioners have insisted the reforms will not affect patient care.
It is now almost three months since details of the planned budget reductions affecting Vida, which the group believes will cost them £550,000 over four years, were revealed.
So far, there has been little sign of a change of heart from health service bosses, despite the threat of legal action action the plans.
But now, a group representing GP surgeries in London has said much more needs to be done to minimise the impact of the changes on patients.
The city’s local medical committee (LLMC) has submitted a 17-point document to NHS England, setting out its concerns over the proposals.
They say local health commissioners, such as the West Norfolk clinical commissioning group (CCG), should be able to produce “clear impact assessments” on the delivery of services and the sustainability of surgeries before any contract changes are implemented.
They also maintain that practices must be able to show that patients have been consulted on proposed changes.
And their intervention has been welcomed by patients’ representatives in West Norfolk, who maintain patients here have not been properly consulted about the cuts.
Dan O’Connor, a member of the patient participation group at the Hollies practice in Downham, one of the six Vida-run surgeries, believes the comments are significant.
He said: “It is heartening to see the LLMC, the most powerful in the land, standing up and opposing cuts to GP practices like the Vida Healthcare surgeries.
“Rising public anger and plain common sense now demand that they back off cuts to PMS GP practices, including those in Norfolk.”
But a CCG spokesman said yesterday: “The CCG is actively working with the practices in West Norfolk that have been affected by the national review process.
“Patient care will not be affected by this review and the national direction in terms of any premium funding is that this money is reinvested back into West Norfolk primary care.”
The developments come just a few weeks after health secretary Jeremy Hunt attempted to reassure critics that the overall funding of GP services would not be cut, despite the reforms.
But Mr O’Connor said that claim was of “absolutely no use” to patients of the affected surgeries, who he believes will see their provision downgraded.
He added: “An NHS primary care funding strategy that completely ignores existing local patient needs – as in this instance – makes no sense whatsoever.”