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Resource Distribution Formula

Volume 546: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2012

From 2013-14, the NHS Commissioning Board will allocate resources to clinical commissioning groups. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 contains the first ever legal duties on health inequalities for NHS commissioners and the Secretary of State. This applies to everything the NHS Commissioning Board does, including allocating resources.

Will the Minister give the House a clear assurance that he will not downgrade the importance of economic deprivation in his resource allocation formula?

Yes, I can give that assurance. I know this has been of some concern to the right hon. Gentleman and the north-east, but I can tell him that we are not planning to alter resource allocation to transfer funds from the poorest parts of the country. There is also no mandate to propose a formula based purely on age. As he may or may not know, although age is the primary driver of an individual’s need for health services, the most recent primary care trust formula uses a range of factors to determine fair shares, including the age structure of the population, levels of deprivation and the unavoidable costs in providing services between areas.

The last of those factors is relevant because community health care increasingly allows people to live at home for longer and to go home sooner after hospital admissions. However, that means that sparsity is a factor in the cost of providing health services in rural areas such as Wiltshire. Will the Minister therefore find a way of recognising that within funding allocations?

Yes. I hope I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. As he may be aware, the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation is currently reviewing the formula by which funding is allocated. We await its recommendations and will look at them carefully before making any announcements.

The reason the funding formula is causing such concern in the north-east is that we have some of the worst public health outcomes in the country, including on obesity, liver disease, vascular disease and so on. Given that there is to be no change to the funding formula, why has the Faculty of Public Health said that the inequalities will get worse because of the reforms the Minister proposes?

No. I do not think the hon. Lady is right in that—[Interruption.] As she will appreciate if her hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench would just hush and listen for minute, there will be allocations for public health, but there will also be allocations for acute care in clinical commissioning groups. Those will be done to reflect the needs of areas up and down the country. No one area will be penalised at the expense of another. What is more, they will be done on the basis of independent advice, as I said to the hon. Member for Chippenham (Duncan Hames) in my earlier response.