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MP calls for longer care contracts

Charities supporting local people suffering from illness are finding it impossible to plan ahead - because their contracts from local health trusts are so short.

Brentwood MP, Eric Pickles, heard about the problem from representatives of local care groups this week.

"The representatives from the charities and voluntary organisations who attended told me that the longest contract they can get from a primary care trust is 12 months," Mr Pickles explained.

"Even then, the service level agreement in the contract, including the targets set, can be changed, sometimes with as little as four weeks' notice. While such rapid changes may be possible to achieve when you have a team of health service administrators working for you - and I doubt that really is the case - it's simply not possible when you're relying on volunteers or just one or two full-time staff."

Difficulty with planning isn't the only problem. The changes imposed on the voluntary groups can cost them grant cash.

Mr Pickles said he hoped the new primary care trust structure, due to come into effect across Essex, would offer more security for local charities, so they could plan further ahead and improve the services on offer as a result.

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