Leading doctors have warned that frontline services will be slashed if a proposed NHS funding formula is given the go ahead – with the North potentially losing up to £230m a year.
NHS England have put out for consultation the Funding Review of Allocations model penned by an independent advisory group, where deprivation and health inequality indicators have been excluded.
If this model for the redistributing of Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) money was used then the North is expected to lose out significantly to the South.
Recent figures have revealed that if the formula had been deployed for 2013/14 the NHS in the region would have lost a staggering £228,831,000 of funding.
Medics in the region are so concerned about the issue that the region’s British Medical Association and Local Medical Committees have written to all northern MPS outlining their fears.
Dr Ken Megson, secretary of Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Medical Committee said: “If this funding formula was implemented then some services would have to be cut.
“Services throughout the NHS would be affected, including areas such as screening programmes and stop smoking services, and NHS waiting times for non-urgent treatment would rise.
“People in the region need to be aware of what potentially could happen if this formula is used.”
No decision has yet been made about whether or how the funding formula will be calculated in the future. A detailed consultation process has been under way between NHS England and CCGs throughout the country.
Under the working of the formula, Sunderland CCG would lose the most funding in the region at £41m, followed by Gateshead at £21m and South Tyneside at £19m.
Meanwhile in the south of England areas such as Thames Valley and Wessex would all gain if the formula was approved.
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association, said: “At present there is a working paper and this is very worrying for the health economy in the North East. There can be no doubt that if this was implemented quickly and without modification there would be significant cuts in services for patients.
“It is well recognised that in the table of health inequalities, the North East fares very poorly and unfortunately many parts of the North East are near the top of that league table.
“With this review we are in the potentially serious situation where we could be further accentuating the North-South divide in health, with resources being diverted from patients in the North East to more affluent areas in the south.
“There is no doubt that this would have a significant effect on health services within our area and would lead to an inevitable closure and reduction of frontline services in the region.” 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.
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, 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. It is only right that we examine the risks and benefits of a range of options.
“We will also need to consider how any change to the formula is implemented and over what period of time.
“The review group has just completed a round of regional engagement events, at which representatives from all NHS organisations came together to hold honest and pragmatic discussions about how funding should be allocated. Their views and ideas are currently being collated to be fed into the review group’s evidence.
“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.
“The review group will make detailed proposals to NHS England’s Board in December. No decisions have or will be made until this time.”