In what Liberal Democrat council leader David Franks called an astonishing display of indifference, Labour members walked out as the Council discussed whether to ask the town’s two MPs to help in the fight to restore drastic cuts in the Luton’s NHS budget.
“With the Chapel Street walk-in centre hours cut from 105 a week to 20, from seven day working down to Monday to Friday only and new restrictions on prescriptions Labour councillors did not think the issue important enough to ask our two MPs to lobby government ministers for fairer funding for Luton” said Cllr Franks.
“More than 86,000 people have used the Walk-in centre since it was opened with trumpets blaring in 2004. It was supposed to take some of the pressure off the L & D Accident and Emergency service. What use will it be to the A & E department now?”
“If we do not defend our National Health Service how can we be sure it will be there when we need it? This is a critical time for Luton’s health care services and this shameful display of indifference by Labour councillors is a good deal less than local residents are entitled to expect.”
Luton Primary Care Trust, with responsibility for almost all of the local NHS funding, received the lowest allocation of funding of all PCTs in the six Eastern region counties, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Luton allocation for 2007-08 is £248M. The next lowest is Peterborough with £267M. the highest is Norfolk with £932M.
The text of the motion being debated by the Council was:
“Council expresses its deepest concerns at the government cuts being imposed on Luton’s health services and in particular:
Deplores the reduction of the Chapel Street NHS Walk-in-Centre opening from 15 hours a day to just 4.
Is concerned that the Luton Primary Care Trust has been forced by government funding restrictions to stop General Practitioners issuing prescriptions for certain medication.
Calls upon the East of England Strategic Health Authority to reconsider its demand that the historically under-funded Luton tPCT makes a contribution to pay off the debts of other Primary Care trusts from better off areas.
And asks the two Luton members of parliament to lobby ministers on Luton’s behalf and to advise the council what progress they are able to make.”