Friday, 29 November 2013

Lancashire calls on MPs to rethink local NHS funding

Health chiefs from Lancashire visited MPs in London this week to encourage the government to reconsider how it plans to provide funding to local NHS organisations.

NHS England is currently consulting on plans which would see funding for Lancashire's hospitals and other NHS organisations cut by more than £29m per year.

If approved, the move would also see a reduction in the health funding for disadvantaged areas where people suffer poorer health by as much as £30 per person.

This week, County Councillors Azhar Ali, chairman of Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board, Lorraine Beavers, lead member for health, and Steven Holgate, chairman of Lancashire Health Scrutiny Committee, visited the House of Commons to express their concerns.

County Councillor Ali said: "This funding contributes towards running our hospitals and commissioning groups, which manage the health services people across Lancashire use every day.

"If NHS England brings in this formula we stand to lose £140m over five years. This is equivalent to the cost of an entire hospital.

"These changes would affect disadvantaged and rural communities and have the potential to lead to more older people suffering from isolation and loneliness.

"We don't want Lancashire to lose out so we've spoken to MPs from all parties to highlight the problem and ask them to persuade the government to reconsider how it provides funding for local health services.

"In particular, we would like a formula to provide good levels of funding for services in disadvantaged areas.

"This would mean we can continue to put the resources we need into improving the health of people in these communities and across Lancashire as a whole."

County Councillor Lorraine Beavers, added: "We must speak up for the people we serve and felt we needed to visit Westminster to fight our corner and explain what the proposed new funding arrangements would mean for Lancashire.

"This would affect all communities, including people from rural areas who need to travel to the larger towns for hospital treatment and health advice. We believe there needs to be a fairer way of funding the vital services people use every day.

"It's well known Lancashire faces some tough health challenges with life expectancy below the national average. We need as much funding as possible so people get medical support earlier in life to reduce more long-term health problems.

"I'd urge the MPs we met to raise these concerns at the very highest level."

Lancashire's Health Scrutiny Committee reviews and studies public health issues and the work of the NHS. It also monitors the work and performance of the county council's public health service, activities of cabinet members and partner organisations.

County Councillor Holgate said: "The Health Scrutiny Committee Works closely with organisations involved in health in Lancashire from hospital trusts to clinical commissioning groups.

"Most local health organisations are not in favour of this formula and they want the government to make an adjustment to take levels of deprivation into account.

"Not only would this affect Lancashire, but other areas, particularly those in the north of England, would lose out on vital investment in what are already shrinking health economies.

"The formula that is being proposed focuses on life expectancy alone, and only takes into account that people use health services more frequently as th! ey get older. Although this is the case, we believe it must also recognise that people in disadvantaged areas need access to health services at a much younger age, leading to better health in the long-term.

"If the new formula is brought in, it will only compound Lancashire's health inequalities, widening the gap between rich and poor.

"We'd encourage NHS England to work on a fairer formula which takes deprivation into account – one that recognises future health needs and current health demands."

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