Saturday, 19 October 2013

Health service funding changes causing concern

Health experts met to discuss a range of measures to help make Lancashire a healthier county this week - and discuss concerns at government funding changes that could have a major impact on services.

Senior politicians and managers from Lancashire County Council, clinical commissioning groups, the NHS, voluntary sector, district councils and other partners met to look at ways to improve health in the disadvantaged communities across the county.

This group, known as the Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board, agreed to write to the government and NHS England amid concerns about the way money could be divided between local NHS organisations in the future.

Since the reorganisation of the NHS in April this year, NHS England is currently reviewing the formula used to provide funds to these organisations, which commission health services for local people.

Although no decision has been made on whether to introduce the new 'formula', the board will be writing to MPs to express its concerns.

If approved, the formula would see a reduction in the budget for areas where people suffer poorer health by as much as £30 per person and a reduction of £29m every year across the county.

County Councillor Azhar Ali, chairman of Lancashire's Health and Wellbeing Board, said: "We have very serious concerns about the new formula that is being suggested by the Government.

"Although no decision has been made on whether it is being brought in, we want to meet all the Lancashire MPs to make it crystal clear what the implications for the future of our local health services, particularly hospitals will be.

"The problem is that it will lead to a reduction in funding in areas such as Burnley, Chorley, Pendle and Preston. These are the communities where people suffer the poorest healt h and we believe this formula will make it more difficult to narrow the health gap.

"This plan to transfer monies from the poorest areas to the affluent parts of England would also reinforce the north/south divide.

"The formula would lead to a reduction of approximately £150m in funding across Lancashire as a whole over the next few years. This could mean the possible closure of wards, doctors' surgeries and community hospitals.

"We are not going to stand by and let this happen without letting the people of Lancashire know and we will fight these proposals."

The board also discussed how Lancashire is moving forward as one of six areas across the country taking part in the Marmot project.

This is a national project to help improve health in disadvantaged communities compared to more affluent areas.

Under the scheme, the Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board will work closely with other or! ganisations from these areas and will be given expert support and advice to help address specific health challenges facing the county.

County Councillor Ali added: "We're pleased to have been chosen as a Marmot area.

"We have a unique mix of areas in Lancashire which gives some interesting challenges.

"We've already worked together to draw up a list of priorities identified through Marmot earlier this year and the next stage will be to put plans together setting out how we're going to address them.

"We feel that tackling the inequalities will be crucial as we look to make Lancashire a healthier county. We just need to make sure that the Marmot work and the funding is joined up to ensure that we are helping to tackle the least healthy communities."

For more information about the work of Lancashire's Health and Wellbeing Board, visit: http://mgintranet/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=825&MId=2850&! ;Ver=4

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