PCT consultations a sham - Gummer

A SUFFOLK MP last night branded consultations on planned primary care trust mergers across the country as a “sham.”John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal also claimed the health funding formula hit Suffolk, leading to rural areas with large numbers of older people suffering from deficits.

A SUFFOLK MP last night branded consultations on planned primary care trust mergers across the country as a “sham.”

John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal also claimed the health funding formula hit Suffolk, leading to rural areas with large numbers of older people suffering from deficits.

He suggested it was not a matter of “overspending” by PCT's but “underfunding” from Government.

Mr Gummer said: “There is the same cursory attitude to Members of Parliament seeking information as there is to local people when they go in for consultation. The consultations are a sham.”


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He added: “The Government is going back to the same pattern that it abolished three years ago in many of the areas it is talking about.”

His comments came in a House of Commons debate which saw the Conservatives accuse the Government of confusion over the future role of primary care trusts.

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Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien told the Commons ministers had initially called for changes to make PCTs “commissioning led” with their role in providing services “reduced to a minimum”.

But in the face of opposition from staff and MPs, they had since "retreated", he added.

“How can there be any sense in the Government proposing changes to the structure of primary care trusts unless they first establish with clarity what the future functions of the PCTs are to be?” Mr O'Brien asked, opening a debate.

Last July, the Health Department proposed to cut the number of PCTs from 303 to as few as 100 and outlined a similar reduction in the number of higher tier Strategic Health Authorities, he said.

Mr O'Brien accused ministers of a u-turn which would return the NHS to the same shape it was three years ago at a cost of £320 million.

The Tories have accused the Government of mishandling the reorganisation of PCTs at a time when trusts are facing £1 billion of deficits leading to cuts in services.

But Health Minister Jane Kennedy defended the plans and insisted the Government's objective was only to benefit patients and improve value for money.

She said: “This reconfiguration is about delivering a better quality service for patients and better value for money for the taxpayer.

“It is about combining high quality leadership with retaining the best of what can be delivered locally. It is not about change for changes' sake.”

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