Anger over health funding in Suffolk

Monday, 18 June, 2007

THE Government has hit back after being accused of neglecting health care in Suffolk following figures that show spending per head of population on the NHS is £161 less in the county than the national average.

It comes after Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley met Suffolk Primary Care Trust on Friday to receive an update on its finances and the progress it is making towards wiping out its multi-million pound debt.

Afterwards he said he feared for the future of accident and emergency services in the west of the county, which he claims could be steam-lined to the detriment of local people.

Mr Ruffley said that GPs may also have to take on more work that is currently undertaken in hospitals and spoke of his concern that the PCT is not being open and transparent enough with Suffolk people.

His comments follow figures published by Junior Health Minister Andy Burnham detailing the allocation per head of population for all of England's primary care trusts in 2007-08, which revealed the national average would be £1,388.

However, the figure for Suffolk PCT - an amalgamation of the former Ipswich, Coastal, West, and Central PCTs - is just £1,277, one of the lowest in the country although Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT, which covers Lowestoft and Southwold, will receive £1,441.

Mr Ruffley said: 'The Government is short-changing the people of Suffolk and under-funding the NHS in the county.

'In the current financial year, we will be receiving only 88% of the national average per unweighted head of the population.

'The stark reality of this neglect can be seen in the fact that Suffolk PCT finished the last financial year with a deficit of £30.8m.'

Mr Ruffley said doctors, nurses and support staff were not getting the necessary resources to do their job, as a result of which the people of Suffolk were suffering.

'We need to see more money reaching the front line. As a first step, the East of England Strategic Health Authority, which costs millions of pounds to run, should be scrapped and the money redirected to those who need it most - the professionals and patients.'

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'The funding formula is determined by an independent body that takes account of local health needs, age, rurality and the current service delivery to inform the funding levels.

'Our formula for weighting funding means that more needy areas receive more funding based on their health needs and demographic requirements - more older people, more deprived people, inner city or rural areas.

'It is right that areas with higher needs and higher costs get more money to reflect that. But all patients get the same levels of service in the NHS; all treatment is delivered according to clinical needs; patients wait the same length of time for an operation and for a GP appointment; all patients get equally fast access to A and E, GPs, and hospitals.

'All PCTs are receiving much more money. The current allocation cycle runs over two years, from April 2006 to April 2008. The average cash (real terms) increase, over the two years, for each PCT is 19.5%. '

She added: 'PCT allocations are fairer than ever before, as the greatest allocations go to those PCTs with the greatest need.'