HEALTH chiefs have angrily hit back at claims that they have “failed to engage” with senior local politicians over impending cuts across England's biggest county.

NHS North Yorkshire and York needs to make savings of more than £75m to balance its books and details of where the axe could fall are expected to emerge next month.

But its bosses were slammed by the Local Government North Yorkshire and York committee after they failed to attend a meeting to discuss the cuts last Friday.

However local NHS chairman Kevin McAleese has now angrily responded – and said claims they had failed to engage were “unfair, inaccurate and unhelpful.”

He said that for many months they had been leading in-depth discussions with senior council representatives over the financial challenges they faced.

“With respect to the planned meeting last Friday, both the chief executive and I were unable to attend because of vital prior commitments and we gave apologies well in advance along with the offer to meet at an alternative time,” he said.

“It is simply nonsense to say that we ‘failed to attend’ and that we are somehow unwilling to engage with the councils.

"Together we are dealing with major challenges arising from the pressure on public finances and our ageing population to which there are no easy or simple answers.”

He added: “We are committed to ongoing engagement with all interested parties on the future of local health services and we regret any suggestions to the contrary.”