Doctors Slam Cuts

Derbyshire doctors have slammed plans from NHS chiefs to make voluntary sector cuts.

Derbyshire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are in charge of managing healthcare in the county. In December they approved plans to make more than half a million pounds in cuts to services run by volunteers among much larger proposals to cut £51 million by April.

This funding had enabled voluntary groups to help keep elderly, disabled and vulnerable residents in their own houses and out of hospitals and care homes.

They provided assistance such as transporting people to hospital appointments, doing their laundry, bringing them meals and through befriending services, and much more.

Now, doctors and medical staff at six Derbyshire GP practices have said that the cuts will hit their most vulnerable patients the hardest, possible preventing them from being able to stay in their homes and impacting further on overstretched services.

Derbyshire County Council is also aiming to cut its budget – by £63 million by   2023. If people have to go into care because volunteers cannot help them stay in their homes, the cost of providing that care would likely fall on the council.

Now these GP practices have penned a letter to the county council, urging it to refer the CCGs’ decision to make cuts to the voluntary sector onto central government. The final decision would then be made by the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock.

The joint letter to the health scrutiny committee was drawn up by Dr Mounna Gorr and Dr Mark Blackburn of Sett Valley Medical Centre in New Mills, with the support of staff at Arden House Medical Practice, New Mills; Goyt Valley Medical Practice; Thornbrook Surgery, Chapel-en-le-Frith; and Stewart Medical Practice, Buxton.

It states: “These cuts will affect many of our patients, in particular the elderly, frail, and isolated. The activity and support given also helps volunteers themselves, giving them a sense of purpose and well-being in helping to care for people who value their support and company. This is especially helpful for people who are newly retired or live on their own, and helps them keep well. These cuts will therefore impact on GPs and other already overstretched health and care services, yet there has been little to no direct consultation with us as individual GPs, nor our practices. The services are extremely cost-effective and whilst the cuts may bring some small short term gain, they will cost the NHS considerably more in the long term. We believe these cuts contravene the aims of better care closer to home and the proposed model of community services supporting health and social care. If these cuts go ahead and our local voluntary services are drastically reduced, it will be extremely hard to set them up again to support localities as envisaged in the NHS 10 Year Plan.”

Meanwhile, High Peak’s MP, Ruth George, has also called for the authority to refer the voluntary service cutbacks to the Secretary of State. She said: “Our voluntary services are vital for hundreds of local people who desperately need support.  Most patients are elderly or disabled and have nowhere else to turn. I’ve met with the Community and Voluntary Support (CVS), with patients affected and with GPs who are very worried about the impact on patients, especially those who are vulnerable. The decision doesn’t make sense, either for the welfare of patients, or for saving the NHS money. Local volunteers help patients to keep well and stay out of hospital, saving the NHS and Derbyshire social care a fortune in in more expensive paid care. When I led a debate in Parliament on the proposals in September, the Health Minister (then Stephen Barclay) agreed that the voluntary sector delivered excellent service and should not be the first port of call for cuts. So there is a chance the decision could be reversed. The minister also promised there would be full consultation with GPs, patients and the organisations who run the services, but this has not happened. It gives ample grounds for referring the decision, and I’m calling on the county council to give our voluntary services that chance.”

Both statements from Ms George and the GP practices will be heard at the next county council health scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, February 4 from 2pm.

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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