High Peak MP Ruth George has led a Parliamentary debate on the funding crisis facing the NHS in Derbyshire last week.
t came as the county’s four Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – in charge of deciding which services the hospitals, clinics and GPs in the county offer – face a combined deficit of £95 million and must implement cuts of £51m in the next nine months.
Joining Mrs George at the meeting were fellow Labour MP Toby Perkins, who represents Chesterfield, and Conservatives Lee Rowley, MP for North East Derbyshire; Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills; and Erewash MP Maggie Throup.
During the debate, she called on Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, Stephen Barclay, for an assessment of the CCGs’ decisions to be made.
Mrs George said: “All the voluntary organisations in Derbyshire were shocked to receive letters stating their funding from the CCGs was to be cut.
“Our voluntary services provide much-needed support to thousands of frail, elderly and disabled people across Derbyshire.
“I had thought that the Government’s aim was to keep our long term health costs down. It seems which ever service helps people to stay out of hospital or long term care is being reviewed or cut.”
Mr Barclay, in response, said: “There is cross-party concern that value for money of voluntary services shouldn’t be the first port of call when seeking efficiencies.”
In recent weeks, Derbyshire’s CCGs, which now seek to merge into one organisation to achieve the ‘efficiencies of scale’ required to live within their means, have come under fire for a perceived lack of transparency and public engagement.
Of the current £94.8 million deficit, Southern Derbyshire CCG makes up almost half at £42.6 million. North Derbyshire CCG would have the largest share of the remaining £44m deficit, half at £22.1m.
Derbyshire CCG chiefs state that in 2019/20 we will need to ensure ‘that we return to living within our means’.
Meanwhile, dozens of vocal protesters gathered outside County Hall in Matlock to voice their concerns against multi-million pound NHS cutbacks.
The protest was held before a meeting between Derbyshire county councillors and Dr Chris Clayton, chief executive of the Combined Commissioning Groups.
Keith Venables, a spokesman for Derby & Derbyshire Save Our NHS, said the CCGs were ‘failing in their legal duty to fully consult’.
He said to a crowd of more than 40 protesters: “It must be one of the first times that a Tory chair of a Conservative council has called on health chiefs to answer for themselves and to go to the Government to ask for answers, so that is saying something.
“We say to the county councillors today ‘thank you for calling in the chief executive and for holding him to account.
“As our elected representatives we request that the proposals are rejected; that Dr Clayton suspends his plans to cut services; begins a proper consultation within Derbyshire; and writes to the Secretary of State for Health to seek the proper funding settlement.’”
During Monday’s meeting, county councillors said the cuts in Derbyshire are ‘quite disturbing’ and being made at a pace which is ‘dangerous’.
Councillor David Taylor led a successful motion to bring Dr Clayton back for another meeting on Monday, October 1. He said: “The patients are very important and I think the cuts to voluntary services are a mistake.”
A spokesman for the CCGs said: “At a meeting in August it was agreed to discuss the arrangements for four services where the area of support is currently out to procurement
These are; Home from Hospital services - Amber Valley CVS; Voluntary and Community Services Peaks and Dales; South Derbyshire CVS; Erewash Community Concern.
“Updates on the remaining grants relating to funding of voluntary sector infrastructure organisations will be received by the CCGs’ Governing Bodies at the meeting on 27 September. The CCGs appreciate this is a very difficult and concerning time and we continue to work to identify and mitigate any areas of risk identified. Subject to further decisions being taken, no scheme would receive a notice period of less than three months.”
Derbyshire County Council leader Barry Lewis has called for health chiefs to reconsider cutting funding to the voluntary sector. He said: “The CCGs say they can save £26m a year by stopping paying twice for some services and a further £16m on prescriptions.
“If they’d looked at this sooner they wouldn’t be in the financial black hole they’re in now and wouldn’t have to look at the voluntary sector for savings.”