Coalition 'takes from poor and gives to rich'

The anti-Robin Hood? Labour has accused the coalition of taking from poor areas to increase funding for wealthy ones
The anti-Robin Hood? Labour has accused the coalition of taking from poor areas to increase funding for wealthy ones

By Ian Dunt

Coalition changes to NHS funding are seeing money being taken from poorer areas and given to rich ones, according to a previously unpublished document.

In a memorandum from Public Health Manchester obtained by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, concerns are raised about the impact of a coalition decision to reduce the weighting of health inequalities when money is allocated to local primary care trusts (PCTs).

The move sees urban locations like Manchester or Tower Hamlets lose around four per cent of their funding, while wealthy rural areas like Surrey and Hampshire gain between 2.9% and 4.2%.

"These shocking figures reveal that the Tories’ plans for the NHS will make inequality worse, not better," said John Healey, shadow health secretary.

"They are reducing funding to tackle poor health in the least healthy parts of the country, and shifting it to better off, healthier areas."

According to the document, Liverpool would lose 3.5% of its funding – some £33.3 million – while County Durham would take a 2.6% cut, losing £26.1 million.

Labour seized on the figures as proof that coalition promises to protect the NHS from cuts would not protect families from the effects of their reforms to the health service.

"The reduction of the health inequalities weighting is a ministerial judgment rather than an evidence based recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation," the memorandum reads.

"In fact the decision seems to contradict evidence from the recent DH [Department of Health]-commissioned research on the subject."

It adds: "This change could be interpreted as a reduction in the priority of tackling health inequalities and could be seen as contradicting the aspirations described in the recent white papers, particularly in view of currently worsening health inequalities."

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "We're not taking money away from any parts of England, we're increasing the budget for the health service in England.

"The average increase in each primary care trust is three per cent, compared to [its] provision the previous year.

"The minimum increase is two and a half percent, and actually the minimum increase is going to Kingston upon Thames in London, which is hardly a poor area."

Areas with more incidences of poor health have been given higher per-capita funding for many years, a move than was watered-down under coalition plans for the NHS.


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