Norfolk's NHS given just tiny fraction of what was asked for from government to build, fix, and expand hospitals
PUBLISHED: 08:44 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:54 05 March 2019
Norfolk and Waveney's NHS has been snubbed in every single bid for big ticket money - bar one - made to the government over the last two years, with £417m of funding it asked for denied.
Health bosses wanted cash for a range of projects including ambulatory care centres at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn (QEH), to ease pressure on bursting A&E departments, a new roof for the QEH, and money towards the redevelopment of the Norwich Community Hospital.
But nearly all 14 were knocked back, with just one being granted - £600,000 to go towards the mental health crisis hub to be opened in Norwich, and this money had not yet been received.
Since 2017 all bids for capital money - big, one-off expenditure - has had to go through an area’s sustainability and transformation partnership (STP), a group which brings together all health and social care organisations.
And £2.9bn was set aside by chancellor Philip Hammond to go to STPs, which was handed out during four waves in 2017 and 2018.
According to analysis by the Health Service Journal, Norfolk and Waveney came fourth from the bottom in the amount awarded, out of 44 STPs.
While places such as Cumbria and the North East being given £159.2m and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin handed £312m.
In Norfolk some of the rejected bids were later resubmitted, as with the mental health crisis hub which was given funding on the second try.
Money for more interventional radiology facilities such as X-rays, ultrasound, CT and MRI scans was turned down three times.
Some of the projects have gone ahead anyway - the NNUH announced last month it would move to electronic patient records, and the plan to revamp the Norwich Community hospital were approved by councillors last month.
Planning permission has also been granted to build an extension on top of the NNUH to house four catheter labs.
And other non-capital cash has been brought into the area by the STP including for digital advances and staff costs.
Patricia Hewitt, the independent chair of Norfolk and Waveney STP said: “The bids we have submitted would improve patient care in Norfolk and Waveney. We continue to discuss with NHS England how we can secure funding for some of the most pressing projects that we would like to proceed with.”
But a spokesman also pointed out a number of projects had been funded using money brought in by the STP, outside of the capital programme.
This included £1.3m to develop cancer services, £2.1m for winter resilience schemes, £4m to develop Chatterton House in King’s Lynn to improve mental health services, £185,000 to fund staff working directly for the STP and other running expenses, £535,000 to develop primary care networks for community-based health and care services, £2.9m to support workforce development, £7.5m for digital advances, and £100,000 to pilot a new general practice assistant role.
Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, said she had taken concerns to NHS England.
She said: “We have had investment in our NHS in Norwich recently, including to our A&E and mental health services. But there’s more I want to do and I want our services to be well supported to improve, so I’ve taken the case to the head of the NHS only recently.”
While Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis said: “What we’re seeing here is the local consequences of the Tories’ smoke and mirrors funding of our NHS. For years the Tories have been robbing Peter to pay Paul. Since 2014, the Tories have siphoned £4.3bn from the NHS in England’s capital budget and used it to help pay for day-to-day running costs.”
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said: “The Norfolk and Waveney STP has lost out big time and this has been raised with me by leaders in Norfolk and I actually got together a group of MPs from Norfolk to write to the secretary of state, it feels to me like it’s very unfair treatment for Norfolk.”
Mr Lamb said compared to Suffolk across the border, this county had not been given as much.
And he added: “The indication I’ve had is this may come down to the belief that Norfolk does not have the capacity to deliver on the proposed spending.”
But he said that was a “damning indictment” which caused a “vicious cycle”.
While Sir Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, pointed out that “any funds allocated [to STPs] is in addition to money that was already in the various programmes”.
He added: “I would stress that there are currently a number of significant investment programmes in west Norfolk, including the new mental health services at Chatterton House.”
He said he applauded the STP’s “impressive ambition” for securing investment.
Mid Norfolk MP George Foreman described the 13 organisations in Norfolk that administer the health and care system as “too many”.
He added: “Patients need and deserve a streamlined service that works for them. We need a plan for properly run local health and care. “That’s what the STP team have got to set out. Government is putting an extra £20bn in. We must get our share by showing we will spend it well.”
Last year MPs and health leaders joined together to call for more funding for Norfolk’s health service.
Chief executive of the NNUH Mark Davies previously said: “I think it’s clear at the moment Norfolk is not getting its fair share [of funding].”
David Edwards, chairman of Healthwatch Norfolk, added: “They have really not fixed the differences in funding across the UK.”