HUGE differences in spending on public health have been exposed in Yorkshire as the NHS prepares to hand over the running of services to local councils.
According to new estimates, only £21 per head was spent in the East Riding on public health services in 2010-11 compared with £73 in neighbouring Hull.
The spending in the East Riding is the lowest in the North and Midlands and the sixth lowest in England.
Local authorities will take on responsibility for work tackling the causes of ill health and health inequalities, smoking, drinking, sexual health and obesity campaigns as well as investigations into disease outbreaks from April next year under the Government’s controversial NHS reforms.
But the estimates, which reveal eight-fold variations nationwide, are likely to further fuel a dispute over the spending totals.
The Department of Health last year ordered primary care trust (PCT) bosses to re-calculate initial figures amid suspicions they had under-estimated how much was being spent in order to hold on to cash which would be otherwise transferred to local councils.
The latest figures are based on those returns but the Department of Health has made a series of adjustments after a number of PCTs reported no spending on some items.
The calculations reveal spending on public health in North Yorkshire and in York was £26 per head in 2010-11. It was £33 in Calderdale, £36 in Leeds, £44 in Sheffield and rose to £55 in Doncaster and Wakefield.
Nationally, the lowest spending was said to be £15 per head in Buckinghamshire – nearly eight times less than the £117 spent in Tower Hamlets, London. The national average was £40.
Coun David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said the figures would allow councils to begin planning but called for a new funding formula based on local needs.
“It is vital that councils’ best efforts are not hampered by funding that is based solely on historic data that is no longer fit for purpose and we would now urge government to move as quickly as possible to implement a formula that is transparent, robust, and fairly represents an area’s needs,” he said.
“Local authorities are ready to pick up the mantle of public health but we must be given the right resources to do so. Only then can councils truly be at the forefront of tackling the social factors that contribute to poor health and providing services that help people to live long and healthy lives.”
Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS East Riding of Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said the area had historically not received its full NHS funding allocation. Further work at a national level would lead to a final figure next year.
He added: “One significant issue that will need to be addressed is to ensure that East Riding residents registered with a GP outside the East Riding are taken into account when calculating the final allocation of funding. This affects around 10 per cent of our local population.”
Some £2.1 billion is due to be handed to local councils for public health, with nearly £3bn more spent by the Government’s new NHS Commissioning Board, Public Health England and the Department of Health.
In a letter last August, NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson ordered health chiefs to recalculate their estimates and “this time all PCTs must ensure that the 2010-11 public health expenditure is reported in full”.
Despite this, most local authorities expressed concerns about the figures. The former chief executive of Barnsley Council, Phil Coppard, was among those who told officials he could not offer assurances PCT figures were accurate.
Publishing the new totals, the Department of Health stressed they were estimates and “further analysis is needed before 2013-14 allocations can be set”.
It had made adjustments where spending appeared to have been “under-estimated or misattributed” which had increased amounts but there were still areas where spending could have been under-estimated.