Bid to save PCT hots up

SCORES of readers and organisations from Huntingdonshire have written to the National Health Service after campaigns by The Hunts Post and two local MPs to save the body that provides GP and NHS dental services. The Huntingdonshire Primary Care Trust is t

SCORES of readers and organisations from Huntingdonshire have written to the National Health Service after campaigns by The Hunts Post and two local MPs to save the body that provides GP and NHS dental services.

The Huntingdonshire Primary Care Trust is threatened by NHS reforms that could see it swallowed by a countywide organisation and bailing out heavily loss-making trusts in Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire.

While the Hunts trust breaks even on its £150m annual budget, Cambridge and South Cambs lost £40m last year. Protesters fear Hunts residents would lose out by having to subsidise those losses.

The Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority is consulting on two options - a Cambridgeshire-wide body that might or might not include Peterborough.

Despite demands from this newspaper and MPs Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) and Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire), the SHA refused to accept retaining the Hunts trust as an option. Hunts PCT chairman Michael Lynch described the SHA proposals as "deeply flawed". He said cost-savings that underpin the reforms could be achieved without disruptive organisational changes.

Earlier this month, the influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee doubted the planned changes would save money. At the heart of them is a plan for the NHS to commission services by economies of scale.

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But Mr Lynch says commissioning can be achieved perfectly satisfactorily by collaboration between existing trusts.

SHA spokesman, Jane Meggitt, said the response had been overwhelming. "We are getting a great response from Hunts from individuals and organisations."

Readers have until March 22, when the 12-week consultation ends, to submit their views.

The SHA will consider views from the consultation and make recommendations to the Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt after a board meeting on April 5.

Chris Town, chief executive of the Peterborough PCT, the only other primary care trust in Cambridgeshire to break even on its budget, is charged with managing the consultation process.

He told The Hunts Post the virtual trebling of NHS funding in recent years was about to come to an end, and changes were about how this would be coped with.

"We are proposing a new organisation that could do things better if we combine some functions instead of duplicating them," he said. Areas such as IT and human resources could be combined.

"We have to reassure people their money will not be going to pay off the deficit in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire - and they should be telling us during the consultation that they absolutely don't want that to happen.

"We need to keep people in Huntingdonshire who understand the needs of Hunts. But does it matter where they sit?"

CONTACT: To give your views on the proposals e-mail consultation@nscsha.nhs.uk or write to The Consultation Co-ordinator, FREEPOST, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, Victoria House, Capital Park, Fulbourn, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB1 5XB.

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