South West is victim of NHS lottery
Cash for Westcountry patients has been siphoned off to bolster healthcare in London, according to shocking new evidence suggesting a 'postcode lottery'.
An in-depth study has revealed that, for the last six years, the Government has consistently ignored its own targets for funding, creating a nation of haves and have-nots.
During this time, while organisations buying healthcare for Cornish patients were drained of cash, the reverse was true in London, where Government targets were generously exceeded.
Andrew George, the St Ives Liberal Democrat MP and member of the Health Select Committee, provided some of the statistics used by the campaign group Health Initiative Cornwall (HIC) to compile the study. He said he was deeply concerned about the "years of perpetual under-funding".
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"It is scandalous," he said.
"This under-funding seems to have been recorded over the years and yet nothing has been done to put it right."
The study involved combing through allocations to Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), the 151 organisations in England who purchase healthcare on behalf of local populations.
Each year the Department of Health (DoH) gives a funding target for every area, but HIC has found the actual amount of cash handed over has veered widely off course for all but a handful of PCTs.
In Cornwall, the target was rigorously met between 2003 and 2006 – proof, says HIC, that it is not an arbitrary number.
However, since 2006 the money actually handed over to Cornwall has dipped hugely below target – in 2010-11 the difference was a shocking £56 million.
In total since 2006, Cornwall has been £176 million below target – a time which has seen its main acute hospital go cap in hand to the DoH for a bailout after running up debts exceeding £50 million.
In Devon last year, a slightly better picture occurred and in 2011-2012 its PCT received 0.3 per cent ahead of target.
While a sustained pattern of under-funding has emerged in the Cornwall, the exact opposite has been true in the capital – the location of 12 out of the 13 most "over-funded" PCTs.
In total this year, those 13 PCTs have received funding above their target amounting to £767 million.
In Wandsworth, the amount the PCT received over and above its target was £77 million – the same amount Cornwall, Plymouth and North and South Gloucester combined received under their target.
Joe McKenna, chairman of HIC, said it was a disgrace.
"This is proof of haves and have-nots when it comes to healthcare," he said.
"When it comes to places like Cornwall, the DoH has taken money away from patients so that people in London can have more. It is a disgrace."
From April, PCTs will be replaced by GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and in the meanwhile, the DoH has awarded an across-the-board 2.7 per cent increase to PCTs. But Mr McKenna said this rewarded the over-funded PCTs.
"The effect of this is to broaden the gap between the over-funded and the under-funded. If you get more, then 2.7 per cent is a bigger proportion."
Dr Colin Philip, interim chairman of the Kernow CCG, which has delegated responsibility for Cornwall PCT's £666m annual operating budget, confirmed the 2.7 per cent increase, but added: "Things are undoubtedly going to get tighter financially as we have an increasingly ageing population and more expensive drugs and treatments available to us.
"We believe we can free up money through our efficiency savings and working innovatively to increase what is available to be spent locally on patient care and ensure we can continue to deliver high-quality services with the funding we have."
Martin Wilkinson, deputy director of finance for NHS Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, said: "In 2012/13, our funding increased by the same amount as all other PCTs. We will continue to make sure people in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay get the best possible care."
The DoH was asked to explain the variance in target and allocation and the reasons for the apparent London bias.
However, a spokesman issued a statement saying the Government had increased NHS spending in real terms.
He said the increase was "above the rate of inflation" and would ensure patients "receive high-quality healthcare services".