HEALTH unions and MPs have welcomed the rejection of NHS funding changes that would have robbed the North East of millions of pounds.
Last year, Conservative health ministers suggested that community health funding should be allocated according to age rather than deprivation.
The proposal to change the formula came as budgets were passed from Primary Care Trusts to the new Clinical Commissioning Groups set up under the Government’s NHS reorganisation.
A study by Durham University said that the move could see a 14% cut to Newcastle’s budget and a 15% cut for the North East region as a whole.
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown tabled a motion in Parliament to fight the move with support from almost 60 other MPs from around the country.
But now NHS Commissioning Board’s deputy chief executive Ian Dalton, who was formerly chief executive of NHS North East, has confirmed that he has rejected the new formula proposed by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation.
The board said that instead each Clinical Commissioning Group would get a uniform 2.3% funding increase and the board would spearhead a review of allocations.
Speaking to Health Service Journal, Mr Dalton said the new formula would have “moved resources from areas where people sadly have worse health outcomes to those where people have much better outcomes.”
The changes to the allocation had been drawn up by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who was accused of trying to “sneak through changes in the formula” after the Department of Health insisted funding would continue to go to the areas that needed it most.
Last night, Mr Brown said: “This is a welcome move. NHS chiefs have confirmed what we have been saying all along – that Andrew Lansley’s plan to allocate health budgets according to age would see money taken away from those who need it most.
“The plan was put forward for political reasons – as cover for shifting funds from the north of the country to the south. It is good news that NHS chiefs have refused to go along with it. If only we had a similar institution to defend a fair local government allocation formula.”
Glenn Turp, director of the Royal College of Nursing Northern Region, insisted that it was important NHS resources were free from “political interference.”
He said: “We’ve always said that it is vital that NHS resources need to be allocated fairly across the country. That means giving due weight to the challenging socio-economic deprivation factors that can have such a devastating effect on health outcomes.
“The RCN Northern Region has highlighted in the past the huge gap in life expectancy between parts of the North East and parts of the South East and it is right that the NHS continues to have the resources to address the factors behind health inequalities.
“It is important that the system for allocating NHS resources should be free from political interference, and is instead based on genuine health needs at a local level.”
The Department of Health said the new allocation of public health funding will give local authorities the power and freedom to tackle the health issues in their communities.
A spokesperson said: “All areas, including the North East, have received the right amount of funding to get the right public health services for local people, and have benefited from real terms growth in funding.
“The formula used to calculate allocations does take account of deprivation, by using a health status measure.
“This is a measure of how healthy people are, which takes account of a range of other factors that may impact on an individual's health and their need for health services.”