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NHS Funding Formula (Rural Areas/Elderly People)

Volume 556: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2013

5. What assessment he has made of the effect of the current NHS funding formula on rural areas with a large elderly population. (136836)

Age is the main driver of an individual’s need for health care, as reflected in recent funding formulae. This is for the NHS Commissioning Board, but the independent advisory committee recommends continuing to review the case for additional resources in rural areas, particularly as more information on community provision becomes available.

It is disappointing to hear that the NHS Commissioning Board has decided not to implement a fairer funding formula. What does the Minister suggest I say to my constituents who potentially face having services withdrawn, when, in the same region, areas such as Barnsley receive almost 30% per head more in funding?

As a Member of Parliament for a rural area with an elderly community I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, but allocations have to be based on solid evidence. The area where we do not have the evidence is on community services. The data will start to be collected on that and we will therefore be able to demonstrate whether community services cost more in rural areas, as I suspect they do. If that is the case, the allocation formula will be able to reflect that.

The north-east suffers some of the worst health outcomes in the country, despite having excellent care services. On many occasions, the Government have said that they are committed to reducing health inequality, specifically in the north-east. Why then did Ian Dalton say that using the new advisory committee on resource allocation formula

“on its own would have…moved resources from areas where people…have worse health outcomes to those where people have much better outcomes”.

Does that not show that the Government have no commitment to reducing health inequalities?

I think the news on the allocations for public health budgets is actually a remarkably positive story. Every part of the country will see real-terms increases in funding for public health. This is an historic moment where we shift the emphasis away from repair to prevention of ill health. The hon. Lady’s own area will see real-terms increases. Across the country as a whole, there will be an average of 10.8% over two years real-terms increases in public health funding. I am very proud that the Government are doing that.