A REFUSAL by the health secretary to meet with Ivan Lewis to address the borough’s health funding gap has been described as an “outrageous snub” by the Bury South MP.

Mr Lewis is to write again to Jeremy Hunt to demand an urgent meeting, although he has been told that if he wants to discuss the matter further, he should request a meeting with NHS England.

The Bury South MP wrote to the health secretary in March after it was revealed that the town faces a £60 million shortfall in NHS funding over the next three years.

Stuart North, NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) chief officer, had claimed they should be receiving an extra £20 million a year, and that Bury is the most underfunded CCG in the north of England.

NHS England proposed making rises to Bury CCG’s budget of 3.41 per cent in 2014-15 and 3.11 per cent for the year 2015-16, but Mr Lewis said this was not enough and sought a meeting with Mr Hunt.

But replying to Mr Lewis, he said: “I am afraid, however, that as NHS England have direct responsibility for the funding of CCGs, it would be inappropriate for myself or another minister to meet with you and as I understand it, NHS England have already met with the chairman and chief executive of Bury CCG to discuss these matters.

"As such, I would suggest that if you would like to discuss this matter further, you should get in touch with NHS England to request a meeting.

“With regard to Bury’s ability to invest in preventative measures in line with its new public health functions, the historic levels of public health spend in Bury have been lower than target levels, which is why in 2013-14 and 2014-15 Bury local authority received £9.147 million and £9.619 million public health funding respect-ively.

Mr Hunt said that highest growth of 10 per cent in 2013-14 and 5.2 per cent in 2014-15 amounted to a total growth of more than 15 per cent over the two years.

On Mr Hunt’s decision not to meet with the MP, Mr Lewis said: “This is an outrageous snub. The decision of the secretary of state for health to refuse to meet with me and members of Bury CCG, despite acknowledging in his letter that the NHS in Bury is chronically underfunded, is arrogant and shows clearly that the government is not interested in the health of people in this town.

"I will be writing to the Jeremy Hunt again to remind him of his duties to Parliament and demand an urgent meeting."

James Frith, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Bury North, added: “The withholding of NHS Bury funding by this Tory-led government is a disgrace. It is damaging the quality of care and the quality of life for people in Bury.

“I’m determined to continue to fight for a fair deal for NHS Bury and raise support for our cause. It’s not acceptable and Bury deserves better than this.”