Skip to main content

Rural Areas: Health Service Funding

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 23 July 2019

NHS England is responsible for funding allocations to clinical commissioning groups, which already take into account the relative health needs of local areas. NHS England is now introducing a new community services formula, which will better recognise the needs of rural, coastal and remote areas.

Will the Minister update the House in more detail on how the Department plans to support CCGs such as Northumberland, where managing the extra costs associated with the extreme rurality of communities like the Coquet valley, the most rural in England, means it simply is not possible for community nurses and general practitioners to reach as many patients in a day?

Adjustments are already being made in the funding formula for differences in costs related to rurality or location. Northumberland CCG will receive an extra £1.1 million in funding this year to provide emergency ambulance services in sparsely populated areas. By 2023-24, Northumberland CCG will receive £98.5 million more funding.

My hon. Friend has already spoken to me about Rothbury Community Hospital in her constituency, and I would be delighted to speak to her about it again.

People in rural areas need more investment in social care services. I do not always agree with the Daily Mail, but is it not right when it says that we now need a national dementia fund and an all-party approach to defining the nature and funding of the social care system in this country? Successive Governments have failed in that respect, and older people, disabled people and their families are being let down as a consequence. When will we see some action?

The hon. Gentleman is right, which is why the Green Paper will have long-term plans on mental health and, indeed, dementia. I think he will be pleased to see that when the Green Paper is released shortly.

What can the Minister do to expedite the provision of primary care services in those rural areas where the population is growing fast as a consequence of new housing?

My right hon. Friend is right to raise that point, which has been raised with me several times. The new funding formula that the independent advisory committee is setting up will take into account the growth in population. It will look at the growth in the electoral register every year, rather than over a five-year period, as it does now, so it will be able to respond more quickly than is currently the case.

Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that dementia comes in many different forms? My mother had one form and she lasted a number of years, but it finally took hold. My sister, on the other hand, went within a short period of time, because she would not eat at all. My best friend at the time in the National Union of Mineworkers, Peter Heathfield, finished his life being violent, struggling with three people who tried to get him to the toilet. Bear that in mind carefully, Minister. Dementia is not a static illness; it is very different for different people.

I do not always agree with the hon. Gentleman, but he is right to make that point. I know from very personal experience that dementia affects people in different ways, which is why I am proud to be part of a Government who are committed to delivering in full on the challenge on dementia 2020, to make England the best country in the world for dementia care.

The huge rural area covered by the Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has and needs three hospitals, but it is funded as if it had only one. As a result, the trust has been fined more than £4 million in debt interest over the past three years. That money could have been spent on nurses, paramedics or doctors. Will the Minister intervene to stop this at once?

I met the hon. Gentleman recently to talk about ambulance provision in his constituency and the Morecambe bay area, and I hope he is now satisfied with the progress we are making on that. I will look into the individual case he mentions and respond to him.