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Council leader calls for urgent talks with health chief over proposed NHS cuts to voluntary groups

Coun Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council.
Coun Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council.

The leader of Derbyshire County Council has demanded “urgent talks” with one of the county’s health chiefs on plans to cut £1.2m of funding to volunteer-run charities and support groups.

Councillor Barry Lewis said he was “surprised and dismayed” to discover the Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Groupwere proposing to completely cut the money they give to local voluntary sector organisations.

The proposed cuts are part of plans by the Derbyshire CCGs - the organisations that buy health services for the county - to address a funding shortfall of £80million.

If they go ahead, it would affect 26 Derbyshire charities and community groups delivering more than 40 services for the county’s most vulnerable residents.

Coun Lewis has called on the CCGs’ chief executive Dr Chris Clayton to reconsider his plans and has urged him to meet with the councillors to discuss the impact of the cuts.

He said: “If this goes ahead, it could put the whole voluntary sector at risk. Local community and voluntary groups do an amazing job on the ground, supporting Derbyshire’s most vulnerable people with an army of volunteers.”

Organisations facing possible cuts by the CCGs include Chesterfield-based Derbyshire Voluntary Action, which assists and represents around 300 small charities and voluntary-led community groups.

Jacqui Willis, chief executive of DVA, said: “These cuts are a short-term vision that will see voluntary sector organisations providing support on par with NHS services fall to pieces.

“The CGGs claim they have no choice- we think they have a lot of choice. This was a rushed-through decision made at a very high speed as a quick fix for an £80m hole. Vulnerable people could suffer. It beggars belief.

“The loss up and down the county will be an absolute travesty that will end up costing the NHS more in the long run.”

Both Jacqui and Coun Lewis agreed that the cuts flew “in the face” of the Derbyshire Joined Up Care Plan, an NHS-led initiative to integrate health and social care in the county.

A spokesman for NHS Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “We’ve been talking with voluntary groups across the county for some time to make them aware of the significant financial challenge we’re facing.

“Governing bodies have concluded, in principle, that CCGs are no longer able to fund discretionary grants awarded to the voluntary sector and voluntary community sectors infrastructure support services.

“We appreciate this is a very difficult and concerning time for the groups and we are going to continue to work closely with them to identify and where possible mitigate any areas of risk identified.”

A final decision is expected to be made this month.