West Norfolk GP group loses funding appeal

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A group of West Norfolk GP surgeries has lost its latest bid to overturn more than £500,000 worth of cuts to its funding.

Officials from Vida Healthcare say they will now have to make urgent reductions to services after their appeal to the Government was turned down.

But, despite health commissioners warning the move is unlikely to be reversed, one of the borough’s MPs has urged ministers to think again ahead of crucial talks later this month.

For the past three months, the six surgeries run by Vida in the borough have been operating under the threat of funding cuts totalling around £550,000 over a period of four years.

The reductions are being implemented as part of a review of how GP services are funded across England.

It was confirmed in March that Vida had lodged an appeal against the decision of NHS England to impose the cuts.

But group bosses confirmed this week that the appeal had been rejected by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Dr Gareth Allen, the group’s medical director, said: “We now have to decide which non-funded services to stop providing, and quickly. The funding cuts have already started.”

Dr Allen, along with other senior staff and patients’ group representatives, have been invited to attend a meeting with junior health minister Alistair Burt at Westminster later this month.

The meeting has been arranged by North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, who says he is still hopeful that the cuts will be reversed.

He said yesterday: “They need to get a grip of this, review it and start again.”

He also claimed previous assurances that the measures would not impact on patient care did not make sense.

But Dr Sue Crossman, chief officer of the West Norfolk clinical commissioning group (CCG), said the decision to cut the funding from groups like Vida, which was initially made by NHS England, “will not be reversed or consulted upon”.

She added: “We have asked all practices to identify any potential impact to the services they provide as this change is phased in over the next four years.

“Once this is clear, the CCG will certainly have a comprehensive and open discussion including the patients of these practices, to explore what the options and solutions may be.

“The CCG fully recognises the immense pressure that our GP practices are under and we are determined to continue our support for them.

“There has never been a greater need to reinforce the excellent primary care services across West Norfolk and to keep general practice at the very centre of our local NHS.

“We are already putting in place the means to allow future decisions to be made, without compromising the position of local GP partnerships, to maintain safe care for West Norfolk residents.

But patients’ groups say they remain prepared to take legal action, claiming the cuts are being imposed illegally because of a lack of public consultation.

Dan O’Connor, a member of the patient participation group at the Hollies surgery in Downham, accused the CCG of failing to accept the cuts will have an impact on care.

He said: “This is a ludicrous and unacceptable situation.”