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NHS Funding (Ageing)

Volume 578: debated on Tuesday 25 March 2014

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Claire Perry.)

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I thank Mr Speaker for granting this important debate. It is a pleasure to see that my constituency neighbour, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), will reply for the Government. As a practising doctor, it is natural that he is active on local health matters. Before arriving in Parliament, he, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), campaigned hard to secure better cardiac facilities at Ipswich hospital, which were formally opened by Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex last week. I was pleased to join that campaign, although rather late on, because I was selected only three months before the general election. Nevertheless, those facilities are in place. Together, we have continued to highlight issues that affect our constituents, particularly the performance of the ambulance trust and our local hospitals.

I am proud that the NHS budget has risen under this Government and will continue to do so. I am proud, too, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has continued the focus on patients and has been prepared to lift the lid on when a normally high-performing NHS has let patients down. I join him on that crusade to ensure that patients are not sacrificed at the altar of targets, which is a sad, though unintended, legacy of the previous Labour Government.

From my experience as an MP with a rather elderly constituency—more than a quarter of its population are pensioners—I have come to realise that how the NHS has allocated its funding is simply not fair to older patients. That unfairness has become embedded in NHS finances over several years and significantly increased under the previous Government. We have an increasingly elderly population, and we have to tackle that funding issue. Let us remind ourselves that although the Labour party substantially increased health funding during its time in government, it did not sufficiently reform the NHS, and that includes the particular factor in the funding formula that could have helped older patients by focusing more on their needs.

The right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) signed off on the £20 billion savings challenge, commonly known as the Nicholson challenge, which was supposed to redirect funding towards coping with demand for NHS services from the UK’s ageing population and the higher costs of drugs and treatment. As the challenge is being followed through, Labour MPs often complain loudly about cuts to the NHS, but they effectively endorsed those cuts by starting those savings when they were in government. The savings are gradually being made, but the only evidence I can see of their helping the ageing population is the Government’s transfer of some NHS money to help with social care for that ageing population, which I welcome. Labour MPs seem to forget that the right hon. Member for Leigh set that in action. Just before the emergency Budget in 2010, he said that it was irresponsible to increase NHS spending in real terms. I do not think it was irresponsible to increase NHS spending, but it is irresponsible not to have addressed a funding formula that does not help the elderly.

The date of 17 December 2013 will go down as the landmark day when NHS England turned its back on the needs of elderly patients, stuck its head in the sand on the dawning impact of an ageing population and crumbled to political pressure from the Labour party. Here was an opportunity for the board of NHS England to put right the funding formula so that the NHS was no longer a postcode lottery and would provide equally for people in need and on access to services. Frankly, I think the NHS bottled it. I do not know why. It ignored the advice of its expert committee. Was it the letter sent to them by the right hon. Gentleman? Blatant political pressure was put on the board of NHS England, and it fell at the first hurdle.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has actively campaigned against the proposed change in the funding formula, which would have started to recognise the increased demands of an ageing population. One of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman in that letter was that he felt that money was being reallocated from certain areas in the north to certain areas in the south. He wanted

“to retain and strengthen the health inequalities and weightings in the allocations formula…and a health service based on need.”

Elsewhere, he has said that the NHS seems to be ignoring the needs of elderly patients. I am concerned that we end up—is this too strong to say?—speaking with forked tongues on this issue. He said:

“A country is defined by how it cares for its older people”.—[Official Report, 14 July 2009; Vol. 496, c. 157.]

He also suggested that the problem of ageing

“will become more pressing as the population gets older…If the system is left unreformed, there are real questions about its sustainability in the long term.”—[Official Report, 8 December 2009; Vol. 542, c. 165-166.]

Since being in opposition, the right hon. Gentleman has said:

“Should we not all set much higher ambitions for the care of older people and, in so doing, learn the most fundamental lesson of all from what happened at Mid Staffs?”—[Official Report, 19 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 1099.]

He also said:

“The ageing society is not a distant prospect on the horizon. Demographic change is happening now and it is applying increasing pressure on the front line of the NHS.”—[Official Report, 5 February 2014; Vol. 575, c. 282.]

There are a number of times when the right hon. Gentleman has rightly highlighted the challenges facing the NHS.

The Keogh review states that much of the pressure on operational effectiveness

“is due to the large increase in the numbers of elderly patients with complex sets of health problems.”

There we have it. In responding to the Age UK report, the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed)—I am sure he will participate in the debate—said:

“Older patients in the NHS are paying the price of the financial crisis this Government is inflicting on the health service.”

I am not sure what financial crisis he is referring to, given that the Government have increased health spending and are simply putting in place the Nicholson challenge set by the previous Government. He also said:

“Warnings do not come more authoritative than this report. Yet as long as Ministers remain in denial, patients will continue to face the agonising choice of going without treatment or paying to go private. Labour has repeatedly warned of the postcode lottery now running riot in the NHS.”

That is absolutely ridiculous. The hon. Gentleman will have his chance to respond later, but I put it to the House that it is consistently not addressing the funding formula that leads to the postcode lottery for elderly people. It is disgraceful that we allow it to continue in the 21st century. Patients need a board that stands up for them and does not bow to political pressures, from one side or the other.

I thought it might be useful to give a little history on the funding formulas, and I thank the Library for producing the briefing on that. Going back some time, there used to be a weighted capitation formula. That always presented a challenge, because the pace of change showed that it would take more than 20 years to reach an equitable formula. People will know that the urban authorities tend to get higher funding per head than rural authorities. We are still a significant distance from the target under the new formula released in December 2013.

The clinical commissioning group allocations are not the same as those of the primary care trusts, because they have different commissioning roles. Public health has gone to local authorities and specialist commissioning is done centrally. The PCTs started to do a person-based resource allocation, trying to allocate at practice level, recognising that they knew what problems patients had and could fund according to their needs. In 2011, the Department of Health commissioned a Nuffield Trust report to look at approaches to that particular direction, and in 2012 the former Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley), was specific in saying:

“Wherever you are in the country you should broadly have resources equivalent with access to NHS services.”

He also strongly recognised that the age of a patient was the most significant factor in determining their health needs. People mainly use the NHS in the first six months and the last years of their lives. There is no doubt that an increasingly elderly population, as has already been recognised, continues to bring the NHS challenges, with more and more complex needs.

I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this debate. Does she agree that GPs have a lot to answer for in putting pressure on the NHS? Under the new contracts, they no longer have to look after their patients out of hours, which puts a lot of pressure on the NHS and its finances. Surely we need to look at some way of getting round that.

I respect what the hon. Gentleman is saying. There is no doubt that allowing doctors to lose the responsibility for effectively caring for their patients 24 hours a day has caused significant change. An ageing population means that that is increasing and will continue to be a pressure on alternative sources of health treatment. A lot of work is going on and I am pleased that the landmark Health and Social Care Act 2012 will start to tackle some of the issues, but I want to give credit to GPs, who are doing so much more for patients in our local surgeries now than 20 or 30 years ago, mainly because of technology changes, but also through a recognition that we can prevent people from going to hospital by doing more in primary care. That is an admirable change, so I want to praise GPs, while agreeing with the hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) that rescinding that 24-hour care responsibility was a backwards step for patients. The lack of out-of-hours care was one of the big doorstep issues before the 2010 general election.

Turning to the different formulas, one big change in the 2012 Act was splitting funding for the NHS, with public health going to authorities, recognising the deprivation inherent in different parts of the population. That was the right thing to do. Surrey ended up with £20 a head for public health and places such as Hackney had £115. Westminster, for example, has an even higher allocation, recognising that parts of the borough have significant deprivation, but it was the right thing to do. Local authorities not only got the staff from NHS trusts who focused on public health campaigns, but were also given responsibility for tackling the long-term factors that contribute to health inequalities, be they quality of housing or local employment. Frankly, the NHS was not in a position dramatically to change the levers affecting such inequalities in local communities, so it is right that councils took on that leadership. I hope and pray that they continue to take the initiative, rather than just focusing on public health programmes. It is a real step change in the responsibility of and the opportunity for our local councillors to make a difference.

Meanwhile, the opportunity was there to examine the formula for the rest of the NHS budget. I refer to section 23(1) of the 2012 Act, which inserted a new chapter into the National Health Service Act 2006. Section 13G, “Duty as to reducing inequalities”, of that new chapter states:

“The Board must, in the exercise of its functions, have regard to the need to—

(a) reduce inequalities between patients with respect to their ability to access health services, and

(b) reduce inequalities between patients with respect to the outcomes achieved for them by the provision of health services.”

The effect is twofold, but the latest funding formula has not taken account of the

“ability to access health services”,

and inequalities have been strengthened.

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate her on securing the debate. The problem is not with the formula that was developed by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation, but that the board of NHS England inexplicably decided not to implement it. That is what we are now living with.

I agree with my hon. Friend. Funnily enough, I do not think that the formula was strong enough in reflecting the demands of age. It could have gone a lot further. The sparsity challenges are also a constant issue for those of us who represent rural seats. There is no doubt that a patient’s health care experience is somewhat diminished when a cardiac check-up means a 200-mile round trip. I realise that we cannot have a cardiac hospital within five or 10 miles of everybody—that might be the case in London, but I will not get into the London health funding debate. There is no doubt, however, that such trips are not helpful with regard to the patient experience. The funding formula has had negative consequences. We have seen a more rapid reconfiguration and regionalisation of services. The quality of care for patients has been affected and there are funding challenges. The problem is particularly acute where there is a high proportion of elderly patients. That is not good enough.

My hon. Friend is making a powerful case for patient care in rural communities and I wholeheartedly agree with her. Does she agree that the market forces factor is having a negative impact on rural communities in poorer parts of the country where average incomes are much lower? People within the NHS and the care system are often paid national wages, but the funding formula discounts for local wages.

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I have not gone into that level of detail and do not have that level of understanding, but she makes an important contribution to the debate. Local clinical commissioning group and NHS trusts must contend with that challenge and should make that point to the board of NHS England.

I come back to the formula. I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) that the focus on age may have slightly increased, but that it did not go far enough. The correlation between age and per capita funding increased only marginally between the old formula and the partially adopted current formula. South Sefton receives 40% more per capita than Ipswich and east Suffolk, but it has 50,000 fewer pensioners and a lower proportion of pensioners. Life expectancy in my part of Suffolk is considerably higher than in others, which is good, but that does not necessarily mean that people, in particular the elderly, do not have complex health needs that need addressing. At the moment, the formula continues to discriminate against the elderly and even further against people in rural areas.

This is a really important point on which we need clarity. The issue here is not the formula. Indeed, it does not really matter what the formula comes up with, because NHS England will not implement a formula that does not give everybody an inflation-based pay rise. That is what happened. With all due respect, the formula could be anything we liked, but if it will not be implemented, it just does not matter.

I can understand why the board of NHS England made a decision not to cut per patient funding in different parts of the country. We could get into the politics of the different aspects of what happened under previous Governments when overall funding went up, but parts of the country, such as the one that I represent, did not receive the same increases and seemed to suffer as a consequence, despite overall funding going up.

I am not into playing party politics with NHS or public funding, so I recognise exactly what my hon. Friend says. I guess that is what led to the outcry in the autumn about the “Tory-run NHS cutting funds to northern Labour seats,” which was disgraceful, because it was down to the ACRA’s independent assessment. I recognise, however, that that must be managed. Nevertheless, the board of NHS England bottled it by not being prepared to be a little braver in deciding on the allocations. It also ignored the formula and, as a consequence, effectively decreased the recommendation on the proportion that should go to elderly patients, which was wrong in principle, but I recognise what my hon. Friend says.

Various proposals were suggested—I say this as a constituency MP and not as a Conservative party representative—that could have seen an improvement in the pace of change towards getting a fairer funding formula while still not cutting funds to patients in different parts of the country. I regret the final decision of the board of NHS England. Of the two options proposed, I would have hoped that it would have gone for the first, recognising that it was a unique opportunity to tackle the unfairness, but the board bottled it.

I want to discuss why the issue matters. There are four community hospitals in my constituency: Felixstowe, Aldeburgh, Southwold and the Patrick Stead, in Halesworth. The first three have been highly commended by the Care Quality Commission and they are well recognised and loved in the community. The Patrick Stead also does an excellent job. The CQC made some slight criticism, but, true to form, the hospital addressed that straight away and is back to doing good things. After I was elected to the House, it was understandable that my constituency neighbour, who is now the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), should be the local expert on health, as he is a distinguished doctor. However, in my own case work, the experiences of older patients in particular, who had not got the care or treatment they needed, kept coming up. That is what got me going on the entire issue.

We have in the past debated the East Of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. That was a classic example. At the top line things were running fine. The trust was hitting its targets and financially it was very good. It was trying to get foundation trust status, and the chief executive was awarded the Queen’s ambulance service medal. However, at the heart of things, the NHS relied on the meeting of targets, and forgot about patients. As a consequence, elderly people with broken hips waited for hours for an ambulance to arrive, because their condition was not life-threatening. I am pleased about the big shift that has happened only in the past few months: finally we have got rid of the entire board of the ambulance trust. I am sure that they were all good people who wanted to do the best to help guide the trust. Nevertheless, they seemed to be satisfied with hitting targets, and patients were forgotten. The arrival of Anthony Marsh will be particularly useful.

I supported most of the service reconfigurations, as the Minister knows, but there was one I did not support. A proposal to reconfigure stroke services would effectively have removed them from Suffolk. One need not know a lot about medicine to know of the excellent FAST campaign, which I recommend all MPs share with their constituents. That recognises the need to act quickly and get good treatment after someone has a stroke. Ambulances in the east of England were not reaching people quickly enough to help them with the first steps in care. If stroke services had been removed from the county, it would have taken well over an hour to get access to the sort of care that is necessary to enable a stroke sufferer to have a good life. In the case of cardiac services, when people were treated en route and taken to the regional specialist centre in Cambridge, they got higher-quality care, and I support that, but I was concerned about the stroke proposals. That is why I was pleased when the local clinical commissioning groups came together and said, “No. We are going to keep stroke services in the county.”

However, I must admit that our significantly lower funding per head means that that decision has potential consequences in the local NHS. The fact that our funding level is so different is one of my concerns. Despite a small above-inflation increase, which I am pleased about, I contend that we should be doing considerably more to help NHS CCGs to meet the needs of a significantly higher proportion of the relevant population. The constituencies with the highest proportion of people over 85 include places such as Worthing West, Christchurch, North Norfolk and Newton Abbot—largely rural and often coastal areas. By definition, those are often the places away from regional centres of excellence. I am concerned that the funding formula did not address the needs of patients living on the coast.

I have discussed at length my concerns about what the NHS board has not done, but opportunities are coming through, to do with local innovation. The King’s Fund report, “Making our health and care systems fit for an ageing population”, was an important contribution. One of the examples of local innovation to which it referred was at Gnosall GP surgery in Staffordshire, which provides patients over 75 with an annual health review and uses experienced “elder care facilitators” to support patients, helping them to navigate the system and draw up care plans. That is a good example of local innovation. I tabled a parliamentary question on 20 January at column 76W asking about bringing health visitors in for people over 75. I recognise that health visitors’ primary focus is, rightly, young children. However, there may be something that we can do, and perhaps the board of NHS England could think about rolling out the practice I suggest, particularly in parts of the country with a high proportion of elderly patients.

I could speak for the entire hour and a half on this subject, but I will not, the House will be pleased do know. It is regularly talked about. The board of NHS England had a golden opportunity, with the Health and Social Care Act 2012, to step away from the political pressures and do what was right for patients. As I said, I think it bottled it, and I am sad about that. I hope that it will reconsider its decision and think again about the needs of the elderly. Those people have served the country with distinction. We say that we do not want to discriminate by age, but the postcode lottery seems to determine whether elderly patients get the treatment they deserve. The debate will not be settled today. Unusually, perhaps, the Government cannot wave a magic wand and change the formula. It is for the board of NHS England to do that. I hope it will reconsider and truly look after the patients in question. In a few years we will be the ones in their position, and we need to do our bit to address the challenge.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, and to follow the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). I apologise to the House and in particular to the Front-Bench spokesmen for the fact that, because of a long-standing commitment, I shall have to read their responses to the debate in Hansard.

I want to raise a concern similar to the one raised by the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal, about the funding formula, although there are constituency differences. Many health professionals in my constituency are concerned that Harrow does not receive an appropriate share of NHS funding and that that is already affecting elderly people there, and may affect many others. The context is that both the key hospital serving my constituency, Northwick Park hospital, and its parent trust, the North West London hospitals NHS trust, have been in a challenging financial position for many years.

In 2010-11, the trust made a tiny operating surplus; in 2011-12, it had an operating deficit of some £7.5 million; and in 2012-13, the operating deficit had increased to £20.5 million, approximately. Figures in papers submitted to the NHS Trust Development Authority’s recent board meeting suggest that the trust is again heading for a sizeable deficit this financial year, of about £20 million. Although final 2013-14 accounts are clearly not yet available for Harrow’s clinical commissioning group, the prediction, from NHS England information, is for an end-of-year deficit of £10.4 million. Indeed, Harrow clinical commissioning group is one of only four in London where there is significant concern about financial performance.

By setting out that information, I do not mean to criticise the trust management, the clinical commissioning group or their staffs. I have been treated at Northwick Park hospital several times, and I think the staff and management do a first-class job. I know the chair and many of those who serve on the board of the Harrow clinical commissioning group, and they, too, do a first-class job in extremely difficult circumstances. Those circumstances are made difficult by the amount of funding that Harrow receives from the NHS.

To humanise the consequences of those statistics on the financial situation that Northwick Park hospital and Harrow clinical commissioning group face, I should make it clear that there are increasing concerns about cancelled operations and longer waiting times in the A and E department at Northwick Park. Given the cuts to local government funding, there are fears that Harrow council’s social care budgets, which are already hard hit, will be cut further by an estimated £70 million over the next three years. The concern is that the NHS in Harrow will come under even greater pressure to meet the needs of elderly people in our area because of an inevitable lack of access to social care.

Additionally, the popular Alexandra Avenue polyclinic, which was open from 8 am to 8 pm for 365 days a year and provided an excellent walk-in service, has for some time been closed to patients without an appointment for all but a short period on Saturdays and Sundays. Again, the service was heavily used by elderly people, as well as by many others in my constituency. The closure of large parts of the Alexandra Avenue polyclinic’s service is particularly galling because health professionals in Harrow accept that the polyclinic was making a difference by helping to improve health care opportunities and access to health care for elderly people and many others in my constituency. That is the context of my participation in this debate, and I am concerned about whether the funding formula properly reflects the needs of the NHS and my constituents.

The hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal set out some of the funding formula issues, and I will present them in a slightly different way; that is perhaps a reflection not only of our different political parties but of the different nature of the seats we represent. The Minister and the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Mr Reed), will be far more aware of the debate on changes to the funding formula than I am. Like the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal, I understand that a weighted capitation formula based on population, the local cost of providing health services, the level of health care need and health inequality is used to determine allocations to each clinical commissioning group. I also understand, as she set out, that the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation was charged with developing a revised funding formula based on the standardised mortality ratio for those aged under 75—the so-called fair shares formula.

After substantial consultation—the hon. Lady made this point—the board of NHS England decided not to adopt the fair shares formula, and clinical commissioning group allocations were initially uprated based on their estimated share of previous primary care trust allocations. In December 2013, the board of NHS England decided on CCG funding allocations for 2014-15 and 2015-16. I understand that, again, the board decided to reject proposals for a faster move towards CCG allocation targets. I do not intend to make a party political speech, but I gently insert the point that perhaps the board might have felt differently if it had had access to the £3 billion that has been spent on reorganising the NHS, about which Opposition Members are somewhat sceptical.

The hon. Lady alluded to distances from target figures for 2014-15 and 2015-16. The figures indicate that Harrow’s allocation was almost 10% away from the target for 2014-15 and almost 9% away from the target for 2015-16. The total estimated funding shortfall for Harrow is some £23.4 million over the next two financial years. That information was provided to me by statisticians from the House of Commons Library based on estimates using the closing target allocations per head and our estimated CCG population.

I recognise that, as the Minister will presumably point out, the figure is not completely settled and that there may be movement given how far Harrow clinical commissioning group is from receiving its target allocation, but I hope that I can persuade the Minister today to scrutinise the Harrow figures. I hope he will ask his officials to talk to Harrow clinical commissioning group to see whether there is more information that might justify a further funding increase for the NHS in Harrow, to close the funding gap that has been identified.

A little like the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal, I have tried not to be party political in this debate, although she will understand that I think I have managed it better than she did. In that spirit, I hope the Minister will take seriously my concerns about the NHS in Harrow and will ensure that his officials talk to those who do an excellent job working for Harrow clinical commissioning group.

It is always good to submit to the chairmanship of a brother knight, Sir Edward. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on her excellent speech, analysis and introduction, and on providing the House with an opportunity to consider this important subject.

However large the budget is for the national health service, money has to be allocated to local clinical commissioning groups through a formula. The easiest formula, of course, would be to allocate a certain amount of money per person so that for each clinical commissioning group we simply took the size of the population of both adults and children—a straightforward and transparent calculation. I suspect that since the start of the NHS, however, there has been a belief that the health needs of some people and groups within the community are greater than those of others, and that the NHS allocation formula should be adjusted to recognise those needs. I think it is clear to everyone that one of the most significant factors affecting demand and spending in the NHS is an ageing population.

Last Saturday’s Daily Mirror summarised the situation thus:

“More than half a million Britons are now aged over 90—an increase of a third in just 10 years.

Average life expectancy is now up to 78 for men and 82 for women, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Its figures showed there were 513,000 people over 90 in 2012. Of those, there were 372,290 women… And 141,160 men... The number of centenarians has also increased by 73% to a record high in the past decade. In 2012 there were 13,350 people over 100 in the UK.”

That is a lot of telegrams from the Queen. The Daily Mirror continued:

“It comes amid concerns over how the NHS will cope with an ageing population… A newborn boy can expect to live 78.7 years and a newborn girl 82.6.”

In Oxfordshire, according to the Office for National Statistics, on average, men aged 65 can expect to live a further 10-and-a-half to 13 years and women an extra 11 to 14 years. The Oxfordshire clinical commissioning group has calculated that the impact of demographic change in Oxfordshire will lead to an increase in costs of £54 million over five years. In Oxfordshire, the population of over-65s is expected to grow by 2.5% a year, so the proportion of the population aged 65 will grow from 15.8% to 18.2% by 2017 and to 25.2% by 2035. By 2035, more than a quarter of everyone living in Oxfordshire will be over 65. The proportion aged over 85 will grow from 2.3% to 3.4% by 2017 and to 5.6% by 2035.

I am not suggesting that the increase in Oxfordshire’s elderly population is necessarily significantly greater than in other parts of the country. What I am saying, however, is that an ageing population is a significant cost to the NHS and therefore the amount of funding for Oxfordshire should be much nearer to the average for NHS spending. The size of the difference between the clinical commissioning groups that are receiving the most money per head and Oxfordshire is too great and is unsustainable.

For a long time, I have been arguing that the NHS allocation formula does not give sufficient weight to the fact that we have a significant and growing ageing population. It is of course good news that people are living longer, but there is no doubt that older people on average have greater need for NHS support. We have been arguing that the formula for NHS allocations needs to be reformed to reflect more reasonably and fairly the number of elderly people in an area.

The facts and the needs speak for themselves. One would have thought that on an issue as self-evident as this, there would be a degree of cross-party consensus. Whether the significant number of elderly people is in Oxfordshire, Blackpool or any part of the country, they have similar needs. An average 80-year-old in Oxfordshire does not have significantly fewer needs than an 80-year-old in Bradford, Birmingham or Bermondsey.

Understandably, in making any change to the funding formula, NHS England might wish for some cross-party consensus; sadly, it has clearly not been possible to find it. The shadow Secretary of State for Health has campaigned vigorously against any changes to the allocation formula that would better recognise the needs of those aged over 65. My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal has done the House a service in securing from the chair of NHS England, Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, a copy of the letter sent to Sir Malcolm last December by the Labour shadow Secretary of State, who started his letter by saying:

“I wish to register the strongest possible concerns about proposed changes to NHS resource allocations being considered by your board on Tuesday, 17 December”.

The shadow Secretary of State sought to defend his resistance to allowing NHS funding to reflect more fairly the needs of the elderly in the community with a rather convoluted argument: that

“health care utilisation is not the same as healthcare need and resources should not be allocated based on demand levels rather than the level of need”.

Lewis Carroll and Alice in “Through the Looking Glass” would find it difficult to dissect what that sentence is meant to mean. I suspect that it is meant to mean all things to all people.

The Labour party has made it clear that it does not want any change to the existing allocation formula—a formula that in no way adequately reflects the local needs of an ageing population. I think it is fair to draw the conclusion that at the NHS England board meeting last December, faced with such hostility by the Labour party to any changes in the formula—I agree entirely with my hon. Friend who introduced the debate—NHS England simply bottled it. It made some changes, but it bottled introducing the original new formula proposed by—let us remember this—an independent committee, which had recommended much greater weighting for age. NHS England simply added an adjustment for what it described as “unmet need”, which it said was a particular issue in deprived areas, in effect negating any improvement in the formula to take account of the number of elderly people in a local area.

The consequence of not making reasonable provision for the number of elderly in a clinical commissioning area is that, under this year’s funding allocations, the CCG allocation for the NHS in Oxfordshire for 2014-16 will be the lowest amount of money of any clinical commissioning group in the country—£856 per head, at present. That compares with a national average—I stress, average—of £1,115 per head. By definition, many parts of the country will be above average. Oxfordshire is the third most underfunded CCG in the country, at nearly 11% below target. If, however, NHS allocations took proper account of the number of elderly, Oxfordshire’s NHS funding allocation would increase by an extra £57 per person.

Any NHS funding formula, of course, has to have appropriate regard to indices of deprivation, and I understand Labour’s wanting to stick with a formula that largely directs funds to parliamentary constituencies held by Labour MPs. It is absolutely no good, however, everyone’s acknowledging that one of the greatest pressures, if not the greatest, on the NHS into the future is the fact of an ageing population if that fact is not then fairly reflected in the funding formula. It is little wonder that the Oxfordshire CCG and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust are both running at a deficit; Oxfordshire receives the lowest amount of money per head for the NHS of anywhere in the country, but, that notwithstanding, it has a significant and growing elderly population.

It is a pleasure to make a contribution to the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on bringing the matter before the House for consideration and giving us all the opportunity to contribute.

We are long past the days when people who die at the age of 68 would be considered to have had a good innings. Now, we would shake our head and describe them as in their prime. The rising age of our population has meant an increase in the pension age, with further increases to come. That is something my parliamentary aide has questioned, saying that she will have to work until she is 72. She wonders who will hire her to write speeches and come to the House then. At the age of 35 or thereabouts, she is already thinking of the future.

One of the figures in the press last week, which hon. Members have referred to, was that we in the United Kingdom now have the greatest number of people living to the age of 100 since records began. Approximately 600 people have lived to 105, which is another indication of the statistical trends. Although that is perhaps great for families who use the free grandparent babysitting service offered nationwide—that is what grandparents do—and which has ensured that families get to enjoy time together, with stories and wisdom passing easily down the generations, it has also put a lot more pressure on our NHS. The NHS is not equipped to handle that pressure without major investment or a redirection and reprioritising of funding.

The sheer beauty of my constituency and the area’s strong links to Belfast and other cities make it one of the most desirable places for older people to retire to—indeed, Strangford and the neighbouring constituency of North Down are the top two retirement locations in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal said that people want to retire to her constituency because it too is beautiful, and quieter and more serene than many places. As they do in my constituency, people might look forward to seeing the sea in the morning and taking walks, because these are the attractions of such locations. More people retiring to such places, however, certainly puts pressure on our local NHS.

If the Government took account of this debate and increased the funding given to the NHS, offering additional ring-fenced funding to the devolved Assemblies, the level of care would be much greater. I look forward to the Minister’s response, as I always do, because he understands the issues and I respect his comments. It is fantastic to read about the available drugs, treatments and therapies, but the fact is that the NHS cannot afford to provide them fully. Any additional funding would benefit not simply the ageing population, but the entire community. There are pressures on the NHS, given the prioritising of funding to the sections where it is needed most, but I am sure I am not the only person in the Chamber to have read the media speculation about the NHS and the ageing population. Statistics from the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicate that spending per patient will have fallen by 9% within four years even if health service funding is ring-fenced and protected.

I have already alluded to the reasons: 2 million more over-65s on the UK mainland, which is a 20% rise, will place far greater demands on the NHS. To give the Northern Ireland perspective, new figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show that the number of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase by a quarter, to 344,000, by 2022. That indicates the pressures on the NHS in Northern Ireland, where health is a devolved matter.

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the figures circulated by the Royal College of Physicians, which show that two thirds of people attending A and E and admitted to hospital are aged over 65? We all recognise that we need to do more to prevent people going into hospital when they might not need to, and certainly to expedite their leaving. Does he recognise that, right here, right now, we still need to allow CCGs to have appropriate funding to address that need?

I agree with that. If more preventive action is taken at an early stage in surgeries, that will have dividends further down the line. The hon. Lady is quite right and I wholeheartedly agree with her.

Does my hon. Friend agree that more emphasis is needed on care for the elderly at home, and that adequate funding needs to be put in place so that the older generation can be comfortable and be looked after at home?

I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. That is probably a subject for a different debate, but at the end of the day it is also clearly a matter for us all. Most elderly people in my constituency would like to spend their days at home. They do not want to go into homes, which may not be as homely, if I can use that terminology, but there are additional pressures on carers who support the elderly at home. That is a debate for another day, but it is an important factor. It is about balancing the budget and making the butter go even further, as it were. Many elderly people want to spend their time at home and enjoy being with their families.

That puts us under even greater pressure in providing a high-quality NHS. The number of the oldest people—those aged 85 and over—is expected to rise by 50%, from 33,000 to 48,000. When we take into account the fact that the average 80-year-old costs the NHS seven times more than a typical person aged 30, even those without a degree in mathematics can see that there is a major accountancy problem in the NHS, and difficulties with funding streams.

Thus far only efficiency savings have been requested, but they have not been enough to keep things ticking over. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that to keep pace with the ageing population, spending needs to grow by 1.2% a year above inflation, which has been running at about 2.4%. Again, that gives a clear indication of what the financial issues are. Such an increase has not happened so far, and the pressure cannot be sustained without something giving. I look forward to the Minister’s response on the difficult but urgent question of how that situation will be addressed.

I recently held a public meeting on the provision of cancer care in my trust area, at which were the top breast cancer consultant and the director of policy for the trust. Both cited the pressure their hospital faces due to care of the elderly. Indeed, almost 10% of the people at that meeting said they had been operated on by the consultant and owed their lives to that man, but probably only one of them was under the age of 50. Again, that shows the pressures that are on the elderly generation and the greater level of care that they need.

Those pressures, ranging from broken bones to cancer, diabetes and strokes, are increasing. Levels of diabetes are higher among the elderly population. The lifestyles we have lived over the years have contributed to that, I suppose, but it is a growing problem affecting those over 50 much more seriously than any other group. Given those increased pressures, we need to increase the funding. We cannot ignore the situation. Unless we, God forbid, begin to put an age limit on what services and treatments are available, we will have increased pressure every year. It therefore follows that funding must keep pace with that pressure. I see little point in funding research and development into cutting-edge technologies if the Government are unable to fund their use within the NHS.

I am a great believer in the notion that money does not grow on trees. I have used the analogy on many occasions. My parents said it to me, I said it to my children and they in turn now say it to their children. I understand that we need to cut borrowing and to restore a workable bank balance, but I also understand that life is precious and that if there is one thing we cannot afford to scrimp on, it is health care and quality of care for our elderly. There are a large number of elderly people in my constituency—I meet them, probably, more than any other group. They tell me what the issues are and I want to see care delivered for them in every way possible.

It is said that a society is judged on how it treats the most vulnerable, including the elderly and children. I ask the Minister to consider the compelling facts that all hon. Members have put on the record today, and which will be added to by those yet to speak, and to realise that there must be a ring-fenced increase in NHS spending if we are to do our duty by the most vulnerable in our society.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on securing this important debate. Although NHS funding has increased in real terms, what matters is the allocation that we get in our communities. We have learned a lot already from hon. Members’ remarks. Personally, one of the most important things I have learned is that my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) reads the Daily Mirror. I will reflect on that fact.

The issue of ageing has been a known problem in the NHS for some while. It was a problem for the previous Government and there was an attempt to reflect it better in what was then the ACRA formula. Like the current Government, the previous Government did not implement that formula. The direction for travel adjustments that should have been made in the years before the general election were not made and the formula was essentially static.

As an MP for an underfunded area—Warrington is underfunded—I was optimistic that a new Government bristling with talent and enthusiasm for sorting out such issues would fix the problem. As has been mentioned, the Secretary of State asked the independent ACRA committee to make a clinically based decision on how money should best be allocated—of course, allocation can mean that there are winners and losers—based on ageing, deprivation, population and any other salient factors. The consequence was that a new formula was developed and submitted.

To be clear, nobody who wants the problem fixed is expecting a new formula to be implemented immediately. As hon. Members have pointed out, some areas are significantly under-allocated while others are over-allocated. There therefore has to be a process by which we move towards the correct number over a period of years—that is, the direction of travel adjustment—so that big, unmanageable changes do not happen. That would be perfectly acceptable.

Is that what happened, however, when we went to the board of NHS England with the new, clinically developed formula designed by an independent group? The answer is no. The board of NHS England said, “If we implement the formula, there will be winners and losers. Our view”—perhaps this was because of political pressure—“is that the losers complain more than the winners celebrate. We are going to give everybody an inflation increase. With the bit left over, we will give a little more to those furthest away from target.”

One of those areas was Warrington. We are grateful that we got extra money, but it was not enough. I suspect that the situation was similar in Suffolk and Oxfordshire: some extra money was allocated, but not as much as would have been allocated had the formula been implemented.

What does that mean for public health? We are stuck with a static formula, developed around 2002 or 2003. The previous Government made no direction of travel adjustments to it other than for inflation and we are apparently reluctant to make those adjustments as well. That is a pity. A static formula may be politically expedient but it is not right. That is why we have ACRA—to go into the issues and come up with the right answer. The situation, for me, raises the question of why someone would be on the board of ACRA, given what happens to its recommendations.

There are consequences. I have seen the numbers: 34 CCGs are more than 5% underfunded—that 5% is a lot of money in health allocation—and 38 CCGs are more than 5% overfunded. What to me is even more significant is that 84% of CCGs that will have a deficit are underfunded. That is an issue because if we are trying to make people accountable for managing an efficient operation, but start that process by saying that we are not going to implement a formula that would give a fairer allocation, it is reasonable for them to come back and say, “Yes, and therefore we have a deficit.” It hits the whole process.

What is the impact in our constituencies? We have heard about Harrow, Oxfordshire and Suffolk. Warrington is also underfunded. The issue is not necessarily that older folk get worse services, but that marginal or discretionary activities are not carried out in underfunded CCGs. For example, in Warrington we are unable to provide IVF in the way that the National Institution for Health and Clinical Excellence would like because funding is not available. GPs decide how to allocate what funding they have and consequently the people who lose are not always the ones who would be imagined to have lost in the formula. Overfunded CCGs can undertake more discretionary activity than others, and someone should look at which parts of our NHS are spending large amounts of money on alternative therapies such as homeopathy. That is likely to be the result of overfunding, and that is not acceptable.

There was an element of politics. Everyone agrees that ageing is a good proxy of health need, but there is an issue about the weighting that we should give to deprivation. That was in the letter from the shadow Secretary of State for Health that was read out, and it may have been part of his concern. That does not allow for the fact that ACRA was an independent committee and either we accept what it said or we do not. I have some questions for the Minister on that because it goes to the heart of whether the NHS is manageable. If such important decisions are, in the end, made for reasons of political expediency, why do we have an NHS board and senior NHS managers who are supposed to provide the right answers? We would not need any of that; we could just link the issue to inflation or inflation plus a little bit.

My hon. Friend is making a key point. One point about the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was to remove that party political element of manipulating or managing the formula or putting in extra factors. That is where a key opportunity has been missed.

I agree with my hon. Friend, but as I said, the issue is not the formula, although it may also be the formula—my hon. Friend and I may not agree on that. I accept the formula, and I would have liked it to have been implemented. I have difficulty in accepting that, for political reasons, it was not implemented.

People in my constituency and elsewhere who are not affluent and do not understand this stuff lose out because the previous Government did not do the distance from target adjustments under the old formula and NHS England has refused to implement the right thing under the new formula. It is hard to justify that. Why have ACRA if we are not going to do what it says, and why have an NHS board if it cannot manage change and do the right thing? That is why big organisations have senior managers who are paid lots of money.

Are there symptoms of waste in the 38 CCGs that are overfunded by 5% or more? Is the incidence of alternative therapies and all that goes with that higher there because they have the money, so why not spend it? Does the Minister really believe that he can hold CCGs accountable for budgets given that how those budgets are allocated is apparently so political and not based on clinical judgements by independent people such as those on ACRA?

It is a pleasure, Sir Edward, to speak under your chairmanship again, although I am afraid I am not a brother knight.

I am even more afraid that it is a fraternity I will never be invited to join.

I thank the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) for securing this timely debate and for her opening remarks. Particular thanks should go to Government Whips for drafting so much of it. As she knows, the last Labour Government took a malnourished, failing NHS with an annual budget of approximately £30 billion and left it with a budget of more than £110 billion. The Conservative party voted against every increase in that budget. The same Labour Government oversaw the biggest ever hospital building programme in this country. It recruited tens of thousands more doctors and nurses. It inherited an NHS in which Bruce Keogh said people were dying waiting for treatment, and left a service with the lowest waiting times and the highest patient satisfaction rates in its history. Of course, there was much more to do.

I warn the hon. Lady against complacency. If she wants to see a health economy that has been plunged into crisis as a result of the Government’s policies, she should come to Cumbria where a crisis is unfolding, patients are paying the price and the Secretary of State is entirely disinterested in what is happening.

It is incredible to hear that NHS England does whatever it is told by the Labour party. That is extraordinary—this must be the most powerful Opposition of all time. Government Members should consider whether they are in office but not in power. A canard seems to be being established whereby the NHS England board have become the new reds under the bed. That fascinating argument will be rolled out between now and the next election.

I am not suggesting that anyone on the NHS board made a decision because they supported the Labour party—the reds under the bed. I am suggesting that the Labour party had the opportunity in the legislation to try to break away from party political interference in the formula and it failed to take advantage of that.

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I am not sure that I agree with her. Not for the first time today—I am not laying this singularly at her feet; she knows that I have great respect for her—we have heard the argument that I hear frequently from Government Members about there somehow being an enemy within. That does not deserve significant air time in this Chamber or on any other platform in this House.

It is a mark of how important these issues are that so many hon. Members attend these debates—not just today, but every time I have responded to a debate such as this in Westminster Hall. As we have heard again today, hon. Members passionately represent their constituents, often with moving testimony of constituents’ experiences. Today, we are discussing an issue that will affect many more people in the future.

The NHS is now more than 65 years old and to ensure that it is still here in 65 years’ time, it needs to adapt to the challenges of this new century. In 1948, the health challenges facing the UK were clearly very different from those we now face. As consistent improvements in medical knowledge have enabled more people to live better for longer, we are now tasked with providing a system to cope with an ageing society. Surely we all agree on that. One of the core principles of Labour’s plans for the NHS is that there should be a system fit for the 21st century. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) will speak about that and the impact of an ageing society later today.

The hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal has raised on the Floor of the House and in recent Health questions the issue of the NHS funding formula and its impact on the elderly, and in my view the Government’s response has been poor. Late last year, NHS England consulted on a new funding formula based on recommendations from ACRA and we have covered such issues widely this morning. ACRA said:

“The objective of the formula is to provide equal opportunity of access for equal need. The basic building block of the formula is the size of the population of each CCG, and then adjustments or weights per head for differential need for health care across the country. The weights per head are based on need due to age (the more elderly the population, the higher the need per head, all else being equal) and additional need over and above that due to age (this includes measures of health status and a number of proxies for health status). There is also an adjustment or weight for the higher costs of delivering health care due to location alone, known as the Market Forces Factor…This reflects that staff, land and building costs are higher in”

for example,

“London than the rest of the country.”

I can point to life expectancy gaps in Cumbria exceeding 20 years. Healthy life expectancy ages in some areas of the country are well below 60 years and the local population, by default, will be younger than in areas where healthy life expectancy is much higher. Health funding in areas with low life expectancy will be disproportionately affected.

It is right that NHS England listened to the concerns not just of the Opposition, but of medical professionals and others about the funding formula, and it is right that deprivation will be taken into account as part of the formula, but that has not changed the overall direction of travel. Over time, money will still be taken from areas with the poorest health and given to those where healthy life expectancy is longer. I would be grateful if the Minister explained how that is justifiable. It is the very antithesis of the founding principles of the NHS that funding should be allocated disproportionately to more wealthy areas.

The pattern is also demonstrated across the public health spending formula. Areas such as Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea receive in excess of £100 per head more than my own county, Cumbria, despite Cumbria’s having some of the greatest health inequalities in the country.

Just to get clarity, is the hon. Gentleman’s position that ACRA’s formula was wrong and therefore should not have been implemented, or would he have liked to have seen it implemented over time?

I will come on to that question. The funding formula on its own is a blunt tool that will struggle to address intricacies within a health economy as varied as the one in England and, therefore, more needs to be done at the interface between medic and patient to improve care for older people.

Funding is crucial, but financial pressures mean that we have to use existing funding more efficiently. Day after day, we are getting repeated warnings about the sustainability of the NHS and the £3.5 billion reorganisation that nobody wanted and nobody voted for has left NHS finances on a knife-edge. As such, more has to be done with less and that requires more than small changes at the system’s periphery. Last year, more than half a million pensioners had an emergency admission to hospital that could have been avoided if they had received better care outside hospital.

A study undertaken by researchers at Imperial college London found that nearly a third of hospital beds are used for patients who might not have needed them if their care had been better managed, which shows that we should focus on improving community care services to allow older people to remain in their own homes. The CQC has also found a general acceleration in the rate of avoidable hospital admissions.

Pensioners tend to have at least one long-term condition and those over 75 tend to have two or more. As society ages and the number of comorbidities increases, we need a system set up to care for the whole person, rather than the individual ailments that have no regard for the person behind them. The system needs greater integration and better co-operation between services to improve care for older people and ensure that they can be cared for in their own homes, rather than being forced into hospital just because the services in the community are not good enough or, in some cases, are not there at all.

The Government, however, have legislated for competition and fragmentation—and, as a result, for service isolation. Cuts to council budgets have meant that community services have suffered and patients are paying the price. I see that every day in my constituency. To improve health and well-being for the elderly in our society does not require penalising deprived areas with an obtuse funding formula; it requires improvement in collaboration between primary and secondary care and improvements in community care services to ensure that people can get the treatment they need, but also live independently in their own homes.

Thus far, the Government have provided no real solution to the challenges posed by changing health needs. We need to introduce a system of whole-person care and to respond to the changing health needs of our society: for young and old, and for the poor and those not in poverty. To do that—I end on a partisan note that reflects the tone of the debate so far—we need a Labour Government.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, for what I believe is the second time. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) on securing today’s debate. As I am also an MP who represents Suffolk, which is a predominantly rural county, I recognise and support her interest in the allocation of NHS funding in areas with a high proportion of older people. I understand that she is meeting with colleagues at NHS England, who lead on clinical commissioning group funding allocations, to discuss the matter later in the month.

It is worth outlining at the outset that the funding formula allocations for this year mean that Suffolk and every other CCG is a winner. They have all seen an increase in their NHS funding. It is important to make that clear.

Before I go any further, I will pick up on some of the points made. I will not detain the Chamber by talking further on the issues raised by the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas). His was a wide-ranging contribution, and I understand that he had to leave early, so I will write to him separately.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) made an eloquent case, as he always does, for Oxfordshire and the issues faced in that county. He outlined in particular the challenges presented in rural areas by an ageing population.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), as ever, made a compelling case for his constituents and for the importance of changes in the funding formula being gradual. I think he was saying that it is important not to destabilise local health care economies. The funding formula was a political formula set by the previous Government, while the current formula is not political but set independently with no political interference. It is important, however, as has been outlined in the debate, that we move towards a new set of arrangements in a staged and managed manner. Otherwise, local economies will be destabilised and that could lead to unintended consequences and potential effects on local hospital services, something none of us wants to see.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), as always, made a useful contribution on behalf of his constituents. I understand that Northern Ireland has the fastest ageing population in the UK, with the number of over-65s due to increase by 10.7% in the next few years. The only sustainable long-term strategy is one that engages actively with the population through not just the health sector, but the community and elsewhere, to ensure that the focus is on whole-person care in Northern Ireland, with communities working together with the NHS to deliver better care and dignity in care for older people. That was, I believe, outlined in the Budget and it is to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s credit that they highlighted the significance of an ageing population. That issue is a funding priority for them, and rightly so.

It is also important to highlight the context in which this discussion is taking place. My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal was right to highlight the Nicholson challenge and to say that, to meet it, we need to transform radically the way we deliver care, in particular in rural areas and communities. She was also right to highlight that the £3.8 billion integration fund that the Government are setting up to join together and better integrate the primary care, secondary care, care in the community and adult social care delivered by local authorities—in her constituency, by Suffolk county council—is the way to do that. The focus is no longer on seeing a patient or a person within the silo of where they are cared for, but on joined-up, holistic care and ensuring that people with long-term conditions such as asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dementia are cared for in the right way throughout their care. The primary focus for that must be to deliver more care in the community and in people’s own homes. That is something we can all sign up to.

I turn briefly to the points raised by the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed). I cannot let him get away with some of the things he threw into the debate today. He talked about fragmentation of services. Service fragmentation is shown no better than through the decisions on the use of private sector providers made by the previous Government. Let us not forget that they paid those providers 11% more than the NHS to provide the same service and care—something a Labour Government should have been ashamed of. This Government were certainly ashamed of that, which is why we put that right and ensured that the tariff is now set so that the private sector cannot be advantaged over NHS providers. We have also ensured that the tariff is much more focused on integrated care, rather than fragmented care.

The previous Government—understandably, to some degree—focused on reducing waiting lists, but unfortunately that did lead to fragmented services. For example, when an older person went in to have a hip replaced, the focus was purely on the operation and not necessarily on the rehabilitation and recovery that is so important after such operations. That led to fragmentation. That is why this Government and NHS England are looking at tariffs across primary and secondary care and the community to ensure that there is a genuine focus on holistic care for those who have operations, rather than just seeing people as a widget in the context of an operation, as the previous Government’s tariff setting did. We need to see such people, whether young or old, in the round and ensure that, importantly, there is a more holistic focus on rehabilitation and care.

I notice that although the hon. Gentleman said that he would get on to whether he supports an independently-set formula, he failed to do so. I am sure that all hon. Members find that disappointing. Not committing himself either way on that question suggests that he prefers the political, set formula encouraged and supported by the previous Government, which disadvantaged areas with ageing populations. I hope that at some point in the next few months when we have these debates, the Labour party will clarify its position and we will understand whether it does support an independently set formula or whether it would like to return to the political, fixed formula of which the previous Government were so fond. It would be useful for us to understand that.

I think the Minister is not doing do justice to the Opposition spokesman, who did semi-answer the question. He made it clear that he did not accept the independent, clinically driven formula. I think he called it obtuse. It is extremely interesting for, among others, my constituents and health care professionals in towns such as Warrington, who would have gained from a fairer formula, that the Labour party will not accept an independent, clinically driven formula as a basis for allocation. That very important point was made today.

If that was the case—I may have missed it—my hon. Friend has made an important clarification. It is important that we have a formula that is as far as possible beyond reproach and set according to clinical need—the needs of patients. It is important that a number of factors be taken into account when that formula is put in place, as has been articulated clearly by NHS England in the discussions about how the formula is set. Deprivation is a factor. It is important to note that one of the primary drivers for setting the funding formula is now age and the needs of an ageing population. That is an important factor to highlight in this debate.

I shall now deal with some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal. She may be aware NHS England has undertaken a fundamental review of its approach to allocations, drawing on the expert advice of ACRA and other external groups. The review’s findings have resulted in a new formula that provides a more accurate model of health care need. Last December, NHS England published the allocations for 2014-15 and 2015-16, based on the new formula. That gives CCGs two years of certainty about what their funding allocation is, which we can all welcome.

I know that my hon. Friend is very busy and may not have had the time or opportunity to review in detail during the past three months the information relating to the new formula, but I hope I can reassure her on the direction of travel. The formula is putting us much more on the trajectory she wants to see. It is independently set and therefore has a lot of clinical merit.

Will the Minister also recognise that the concept of unmet need was reintroduced in a more significant way than previously, and that that does not necessarily help where we know there are elderly populations with specific conditions that need treating?

It may be helpful if I outline the way the new formula works and how some of the weighting has changed, which will help to address the point my hon. Friend has just made and shed more light on the direction of travel that is under way.

The new formula uses a new indicator to recognise how health inequality should be reflected, which is based on the standardised mortality rate for those aged under 75. Previously, adjustment has been made on the basis of a measure of disability-free life expectancy. The new indicator is technically better, in that it can pick up pockets of deprivation within more affluent areas. The formula focuses much more on real population need, rather than taking a blanket approach across the population.

The new formula moves to the more powerful method of using individual rather than small area utilisation data—this is fundamental to the formula—to derive estimates of need. The main factors in the model are age, gender and 150 morbidity measures from the diagnoses of admissions to hospitals. That picks up on the point that my hon. Friend just raised. The formula looks at the pressure of long-term illness. Those 150 morbidity measures will pick that up. The increased need for health care in deprived areas is captured in the base formula by directly taking account of much of the increased need in deprived groups. In addition, further adjustments are made for factors such as the claimant rate for key benefits. That ensures that the model captures increased need that is linked to deprivation but is not linked to earlier utilisation of hospital services.

The new formula reflects more up-to-date data on population growth and measures population based on registered GP lists, rather than population projections based on the census. I am sure we can all recognise that where there has been growth in a population or changes are happening at local level, basing the formula on up-to-date GP lists is a much more accurate way of reflecting the health care needs of the local population than basing it on a 10-yearly census.

The new formula also reflects the responsibilities of CCGs rather than PCTs, as my hon. Friend outlined in her contribution. CCGs are not responsible for specialist services or primary care, although of course NHS England is now also taking over responsibility for the GP contract, as she will be aware. As a consequence, it is important to stress that the new formula for allocating funds to CCGs follows the advice provided by ACRA. A strong element of the allocation is focused on age. The primacy of age, an ageing population and the needs of older patients are very much built in, as are the needs of patients with long-term conditions. There is still a strong weighting for deprivation.

How does my hon. Friend the Minister feel that the market forces factor is reflected in the new formula?

These are obviously factors that NHS England will keep under review and take advice on from ACRA, but importantly, the new funding formula is not based on census data every 10 years but on real-time information coming in from GP practices. It looks at the health care needs of local populations, at deprivation, at areas where there are groups of patients with multiple medical co-morbidities. We know that as people live longer and our NHS is more successful, that will of course throw up new challenges. People are living longer not just with one long-term condition, but sometimes with two, three or four. Someone with dementia may also have heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other conditions. A much more accurate reflection of real-time patient information is used to help set and adjust the formula for future years, and I think we would all welcome that. It is all part of having an independently set formula, rather than one based on the whims of a particular Government.

Almost two thirds of total NHS funding, as we are aware, now goes to clinical commissioning groups, which have the clinical expertise and local knowledge to best commission health services according to local needs and priorities. We are very proud that, as part of our reforms in 2012, we ensured a clinically led NHS at local level. Doctors and nurses are now making decisions for patients, which is already leading to improved services not just in Suffolk but throughout the country, because it is ensuring that the money from the increased budget that we are giving the NHS is being spent in a way that focuses on the needs of patients.

The Government have been able to ensure real-terms growth in funding until 2015-16, despite the stark financial challenges that we face as a country, and we should be very proud of the fact that we are continuing to put more money into the NHS. That means that NHS funding in England will be almost £15 billion higher in cash terms in 2015-16 than it was in 2010-11, and spending will rise from £100.4 billion in 2010-11 to £115.1 billion in 2015-16. Importantly, transforming care and delivering more personalised care under the integrated health fund—the £3.8 billion fund that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set up last year—is an important part of ensuring that that money is spent not just more efficiently, but in a more patient-centred way, particularly for patients with long-term conditions, both in Suffolk and in other parts of the country where there are many older patients.

In concluding, I want to highlight the fact that although, as we have already discussed, every CCG is receiving an increase in funding, the three CCGs in Suffolk in particular have seen funding growth. Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG’s funding allocation will increase by 2.85% in 2014-15 and by 2.19% in 2015-16 to reach £412.4 million in that year. As a result of the new funding formula that has been put in place, Suffolk is doing well, as are many other parts of the country.

Having a formula that is independently set according to clinical need and population information, and that is up to date and accurate, puts us in a much better place properly to look after the needs of patients, be they young or old, in the years ahead. That formula and the Government’s bold decision to ensure that it is independently set puts us in a strong position to deliver high-quality care for older people. That, together with the £3.8 billion integration fund, means that we will radically transform and improve the way in which we deliver care.