Change to health funding formula would see Yorkshire lose £416m

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THE region’s NHS faces cuts running into hundreds of millions of pounds if controversial plans to change the key health service funding formula go ahead.

Figures published by NHS England reveal Yorkshire would lose £416m if a proposed change to the formula is introduced.

Health chiefs decided to postpone a move to a measure recommended by a Government committee nine months ago amid fears it would critically destabilise the NHS, leading to huge flows in cash from north to south.

Talks over the future shape of the formula are now under way, leading to the publication for the first time of figures which show Yorkshire would take a major hit - with the North losing £722m overall – if the proposal goes ahead.

Under current arrangements, funding is weighted towards deprived areas with the highest health inequalities. But if a move towards a funding formula based on health needs linked to age goes ahead, Barnsley stands to lose 13.5 per cent of its budget, worth £41m.

Also badly hit would be the area which funds the financially-stricken Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, with North Kirklees losing 13.3 per cent of its budget, worth £25m, and Wakefield facing an 10.6 per cent cut, worth £44m.

There had been expectations the debt-ridden NHS in North Yorkshire would benefit from the changes but the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby area would lose 4.5 per cent of its budget, worth £7m, Scarborough and Ryedale would face a cut of 4.4 per cent, worth £6m, Harrogate would be down two per cent, worth £3m, and Vale of York would lose £5m – 1.3 per cent of its budget.

Other areas seeing big cuts in excess of 10 per cent include Calderdale and the south and east of Leeds. North Lincolnshire would lose least, down by only £168,000. Overall, West Yorkshire would lose £210m, South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw would face a £149m cut, and North Yorkshire, East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire would be down £57m.

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said such huge cuts in NHS funding in the area would have a “devastating” impact on services.

“This would appear to be targeting areas where the need for healthcare is very high,” he said.

“I would be extremely concerned to make sure Barnsley, Yorkshire and the North of England gets its fair share of the money available.”

Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said the figures were “very disappointing”. North Yorkshire is already among the 10 per cent worst funded areas in the country, with Ministers coming under repeated pressure to tackle its problems.

“It obviously doesn’t take into account rurality or the demographic of an ageing population,” he said. “We’ve already got funding problems and this would put additional problems on top.”

Mark Wilkinson, chief officer of NHS Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which allocates funding, said: “The CCG will want to understand why Barnsley appears on these figures to be currently getting more than its ‘fair share’ in money terms as this could mean we would lose vital NHS resources for Barnsley. Although the health of the average person in Barnsley has improved greatly over the last few years, there are still real inequalities between different areas of our country – typically between North and South.”

NHS England bosses say they are concerned the new formula would result in higher growth for areas already with the best health outcomes which “appears inconsistent” with its role to improve outcomes for all and reduce inequalities. They will also look at evidence of the costs of services in rural areas and take into account unmet health needs before a decision is taken in December. Any change is unlikely to be immediate but over a period of years.

A spokesman said: “The purpose of the allocations review is to consider a range of options for the future approach to allocation of funds. Part of the work of our review is to consider the current funding position against projections of funding requirements based on need or population.

“Any decisions need to take into account our duty to ensure equal access for equal need and to contribute to addressing health inequalities.”