Health authority's treatment of voluntary groups 'a disgrace', say MPs

Care services minister Paul Burstow is critical of NHS North Yorkshire and York for giving only a month's notice for recalling grants

Care services minister Paul Burstow
Care services minister Paul Burstow

Paul Burstow, the care services minister, has asked Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS, to consider ways of making health organisations "act responsibly" towards voluntary organisations when making cuts.

Burstow made the announcement during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday when MPs labelled NHS North Yorkshire and York "despicable" and "a disgrace" for giving 18 voluntary organisations one month’s notice of the withdrawal of grants already pledged this financial year.

Burstow, a Liberal Democrat MP, said the primary care trust’s decision to "slam on the brakes" might have "serious consequences for the future".

"The PCT may, technically, be within its rights to give the minimum of notice to providers, but pulling the plug on small organisations with just a month's notice - or in some cases, less - is alien to the spirit of collaboration and partnership that we want the NHS to cultivate," he said.

"We need candour and early discussion about where there are cost pressures in the system because, given the opportunity, the voluntary sector can contribute to managing them."

The PCT told the organisations in October it was withdrawing grants from November onwards because of "serious financial pressures".

Julian Smith, Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, told MPs that the PCT’s actions and breach of the Compact were "a disgrace". He added: "It has caused problems for those important parts of the big society that have been operating in North Yorkshire for so long."

York Outer Conservative MP Julian Sturdy described the one-month notice period as "despicable".

"Such blunt and definitive notice is absolutely outrageous," he said. "It has caused fear and concern in the sector."

The PCT originally announced it wanted £150,000 back. But it has amended this figure to £250,000.

A PCT spokesman said it failed to include some voluntary organisations in its original analysis of the overall figure.

He said only £48,000 had been paid in advance and the rest had yet to be paid so would not have to be reclaimed.

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