Fears voiced over funding changes which could slash NHS spending in the region (From The Northern Echo)
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Fears voiced over funding changes which could slash NHS spending in the region
1:00am Wednesday 16th October 2013 in News
Health unions, MPs and academics have jointly criticised a controversial new formula for NHS funding. Barry Nelson reports on fears that the proposed changes could widen the North-South health divide.
NEW research has shown the devastating impact a new funding formula could have on the amount spent on healthcare in the North-East.
The threat to North-East NHS budgets first emerged last week when Prime Minister David Cameron was challenged in the House of Commons by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown.
Mr Brown warned the Prime Minister that the projected annual loss across the North-East and Cumbria if the changes go ahead will amount to £230m.
The plan - which seeks to switch cash from poorer areas with higher levels of deprivation to areas where there are more pensioners - has been put forward by the independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocations and are currently subject to consultation, ahead of final proposals to be published later this year.
Now, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in the North-East has published new details of how the proposed funding formula changes will affect the region.
And at the same time, a separate study by academics from Durham University has concluded that the region will "lose out substantially" if the changes are implemented.
The RCN statistics show that the proposed revisions to the allocation formula mean there will be no weighting for levels of deprivation in local areas, or which have poor health outcomes.
Instead the new allocation formula will be based on the predicted demand for healthcare for the population as whole.
Using NHS England's own figures, the RCN Northern region has calculated what the 2013-14 NHS per capital funding allocation would look like if the new formula is implemented - and it says some of the biggest losers will be in the North-East.
The worst hit area will be Sunderland where the loss in funding will be £146 per head of the population.
Darlington would be penalised to the tune of £28 less per resident while North Durham would lose £14 a head.
At the same time, already affluent areas such as Eastbourne would benefit by £136 extra per head and Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead by £106 per head.
Glenn Turp, regional director for the RCN, said: "The North-East and Cumbria suffers from some of the worst health inequalities in the country. NHS England should be aiming to reduce inequalities in health outcomes, not make them worse.
"Given the size of health inequalities in this region, I believe that NHS England should actually be increasing funds to the areas with the worst outcomes.
"However, NHS England's own data shows these proposals will do the opposite.
"I am particularly worried that these proposed technical changes will have a huge and negative effect on funding for the NHS in the North-East and Cumbria."
Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton South, said: "To ignore the very specific issues of poverty and deprivation in our region to switch resources to the south is callous and demonstrates how totally detached the Tory Government is to the needy as a whole and the North-East in particular."
In separate research published in the British Medical Journal, Professor Clare Bambra and Dr Alison Copeland from Durham University claimed that if the funding changes go ahead "the more affluent, healthier South-East will benefit most and the poorer, less healthy North will lose out substantially".
The researchers say that NHS funding is currently allocated to areas on the principle of providing "equal opportunity of access for equal need".
But using the data provided by NHS England, they found that using the new formula would mean affluent areas like South Eastern Hampshire, where healthy life expectancy is 68 years for women, would receive additional NHS funding of £164 per person (an increase of 14 per cent).
This would be at the expense of areas such as Sunderland, where healthy life expectancy is 58 years for women, and where NHS funding would decrease by £146 per person (a decrease of 11 per cent).
However, the Government insists that funding for the North-East NHS is actually going up.
Last week the Prime Minister pointed out: "This year's funding for the North-East clinical commissioning group is going up by £170m, a 2.3 per cent increase. That is what is happening under this Government."
NHS England said any new funding formula would be phased in over time to give clinical commissioning groups time to plan the changes necessary.
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