HEALTH chiefs have been accused of putting the lives of thousands of diabetic patients at risk as they try to slash their debts.

Diabetes UK’s York and District Voluntary Group says debts inherited by the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group are having an enormously detrimental effect on all diabetic patients attending York Hospital.

Spokesman Howard Steel said in a letter to the group that a squeeze on funding caused by debts left by its predecessor, the former primary care trust, appeared to be putting York patients at an unfair disadvantage compared with others elsewhere in the country.

In the old trust area, there were about 33,000 people diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 16,000 others who had it without knowing.

Mr Steel said members were horrified at the speed with which hospital consultants had been asked to discharge large numbers of diabetic patients back into the care of the community, before GPs had had time to prepare for a huge influx of patients.

“Many of these people need to see specialists in order to ensure that small changes in their health will not lead to life-threatening changes in their conditions,” he said. “This action is both unfair on the GPs and unsafe for the patients.”

He feared many diabetes patients were unaware of the changes and that there could be a loss of expertise at the diabetes centre at York Hospital.

“People who are worried about their diabetes will no longer be able to phone and ask to see someone at the centre but will have to see their GP first and then wait for an appointment to become available. Often, such a delay can cause life-threatening complications to worsen.”

York Central MP Hugh Bayley said York patients should get the same standard of care as those elsewhere under a national health service.

“If the Government won’t set national standards for care, Parliament should pass a law to make them do it,” he said, adding that he would re-introduce his previous NHS Right to Care Bill to re-start a debate in the Commons.

A CCG spokeswoman said it had worked closely with York Hospital’s clinical leads and consultants, who recognised the urgency of a service review.

“After much consideration and the evaluation of patients’ needs, York Hospital took the decision to begin the discharge of patients,” she said.

“After a thorough study of performance, the hospital became aware of the fact that annual out-patient reviews often prevented the hospital from providing appointments for patients with more complex needs. Until recently, there was a high level of duplication. Many patients were already receiving annual reviews through their practice.”

She said patients could be assured their GP could provide the same levels of quality care and monitoring of their condition as they would get in a hospital setting.

Their care would be equally as effective as their previous hospital healthcare offer, along with the added benefit of being more efficient; both for the patient’s time and on local healthcare resources.