Prominent North East MPs have tackled the Government over unpopular plans to change the way that the health service is funded.
Yesterday afternoon, a debate was held in Parliament where issues were raised about a proposed new NHS funding formula, which could see the region lose up to £230m a year in money for patients.
NHS England is currently reviewing the funding formula used to allocate money to Clinical Commissioning Groups in England.
The revisions would mean that there will be no weighting for levels of deprivation in local areas, or places which have poor health outcomes.
Newcastle East MP Nick Brown told Health Minister Daniel Poulter that it was “outrageous” that the plans had been put forward after there had been assurances that deprivation would be included in the NHS funding formula.
Mr Brown said: “We were given a clear assurance by the Minister’s predecessor at Health Questions on the floor of the House that this would not be done, that the importance of the deprivation part of the calculation would not be downgraded.
“We asked for a clear assurance, we were given a clear assurance and that assurance is not comparable with the consultation that is currently being carried out.”
Focus of the new formula would be primarily on age and gender. If this were to happen then there would be a movement of money away from poorer and less healthy areas in the North, towards more affluent, healthier areas of the South.
For example, in Sunderland funding would fall by £146 per person while in South Eastern Hampshire, where life expectancy is 10 years, longer NHS funding would increase by £164 per person.
Labour Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “One of the most worrying aspects of the issue is the potential changes to funding of Clinical Commissioning Groups.
“The concern is that it could be seen as a political gerrymander, where the poorest areas are being deprived of funding and the wealthiest areas will see increases.
“So the areas with the best health outcomes are going to get the biggest increases in resources.”
Conservative Minister Mr Poulter said that the funding formula was not a decision for Government to make but rather NHS England.
He said: “It is now for NHS England to listen to the independent advice that they are given, but I would find it very strange if there was a sudden change in the funding formula that did not factor in deprivation, as it has been done in the past.
“This is not a political decision. In the past this Government has preserved a weighting for deprivation and now the decision will be separately taken by NHS England and it is a decision that will be made on the basis of clinical need but, of course, deprivation will be a factor.”
It is expected that the review group will make detailed proposals to NHS England’s Board in December to inform 2014-15 allocations and a final report in July 2014 to inform 2015-16 allocations.
A spokesperson for NHS England previously said: “NHS England has a legal duty to ensure equal access for equal need and to contribute to addressing health inequalities.
“We need to therefore consider how best we ensure funding is distributed to meet these objectives.
“The purpose of the allocations review is to consider a range of options for the future approach to allocation of funds.
“We will also need to consider how any change to the formula is implemented and over what period of time.
“The primary aim is to allocate funds where they will have the biggest impact in improving patient outcomes across the country while ensuring equal access for equal need.”