MPs go on attack over provision of health care across county

A CROSS-party group of MPs has launched a stinging attack on health provision in North Yorkshire during a parliamentary debate.

The debate was secured by the York Conservative MP Julian Sturdy and attended by a group six Tory and Labour MPs from across the county in the Houses of Parliament, alongside the minister of state for the Department of Health.

Mr Sturdy claimed there were serious growing concerns over the capability and performance of the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) and said he had been contacted by worried people concerned over the future of IVF treatments, counselling services and broken voluntary sector contracts as well as 2m about to be cut from GPs' budgets for prescribing medications.

The PCT's controversial withdrawal of spinal injections for patients with chronic back pain, which happened in November last year, was also heavily criticised during the debate.

Mr Sturdy said: "Only last week, Dr Peter Toomey, a consultant anaesthetist at York hospital wrote to me, stating: "I consider that the PCT have made serious errors of judgement in coming to their decision to restrict access to spinal injections for the relief of pain.

"The PCT will not reimburse York Hospital for any injection into any part of the spine for any diagnosis unless it has been approved by the PCT's Funding Request Panel."

"We know that many people are being refused by that request panel."

"Dr Toomey and a number of his colleagues have fought hard to challenge the PCT's policy, but-alas, their medical expertise seems to have fallen upon deaf ears.

"Patients and medical professionals are united in the view that this pain relief service should not have been withdrawn. It has been taken away for the wrong reasons and should be reinstated without delay."

Nigel Adams, the Tory MP for Selby and Ainsty, told the debate: "I am not sure whether I should declare an interest, having received several back pain relief injections in the past.

"The injections are a big issue in the North Yorkshire area, as evidenced by the huge postbags that my honourable friend and I receive, and we have spoken to the Secretary of State on the matter."

Speaking after the debate, which took place last week, Mr Sturdy said while he appreciated that the PCT was ranked 140th out 150 primary care trusts in terms of the funding it received, it was vital to reinstate the pain relief injections.

Health campaigners have welcomed the renewed calls.

Gordon Hart, a 78-year-old spokesman for York & District Pain Management Support Group, said: "It was an awful decision to stop the injections and I am delighted this has been raised in Parliament.

"I stopped getting the injections and now I am simply taking three times as much pain killing medication as before. They cancelled the injections without providing suitable alternatives."

The PCT says it withdrew the injections following national guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence which had reviewed treatments such as spinal injections, and found while it provided short-term benefits for patients with acute back pain, spinal injections were not an effective treatment for patients with longer-term chronic back pain.

It claims it is seeking to offer a greater range of treatments.

Speaking in response to the debate, Jayne Brown, chief executive of NHS North Yorkshire and York, said: "Nobody should be in any doubt as to the seriousness of the challenges we are facing. In light of these, we have taken some tough short term measures to break even this year and we are looking strategically at our longer term position.

"We have a statutory obligation to achieve financial balance and our priority is to achieve significant short-term savings whilst maintaining essential services for patients in North Yorkshire and York."