Areas with highest liver disease deaths are ‘most starved of NHS funds’

2 January 2014

Areas with highest liver disease deaths are ‘most starved of NHS funds’

British Liver Trust criticises health reforms which deprive areas with greatest number of liver deaths from the funding they need.

The British Liver Trust has undertaken analysis suggesting that areas with the highest number of liver disease deaths are being ‘starved of NHS funds’ with the areas with the lowest numbers of deaths getting 10% more in funding on average.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has stipulated that liver disease is an area that needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency, but campaigns and charities have noted that a promised strategy is now two years overdue with no real action having materialised.

Worryingly the amount of money being provided to deal with the actual disease was being gradually decreased, say campaigners. NHS England had revealed that approximately £100bn of health spending would be able to be spent by local groups of GPS to spend on patients; but closer analysis by the British Liver Trust found a distinct disparity between cash available to local populations, particularly with what were deemed as preventable lifestyle diseases.

In December the government made a decision to provide cash settlements for family doctor’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). However, the British Liver Trust scratched beneath the surface to find some startling information regarding the NHS funding growth each area of Britain would receive after the cash injection compared to the latest death rate from liver disease.

They found through their analysis that areas with less than five deaths from liver disease per 100,000 people would receive a budget growth in 2014-15 of 10% more than those areas that had more than 35 deaths per 100,000.

In north Manchester death rates from liver disease run at 35 per 100,000 people, this is twice the national rate.  Yet in this region GPs are to receive NHS funding rises in 2014-15 of a marginal 2.14%.

This is in stark comparison to south Norfolk, where the deaths from liver disease are a third of those in Manchester, and are far below the national average, GPs will get a funding boost of 4.92%.

Even though excessive drinking has become a growing problem in England which government scrutiny about how to deal with it increasing, the lower funding in some areas seems to go against this, the charity argued.

The British Liver Trust's chief executive, Andrew Langford, said: "These findings confirm our worst fears. We warned the government back in November not to change NHS funding until its impact on liver disease was better understood, but they ploughed on regardless.

"From April, the poorest areas will be starved of the funds to tackle liver disease even though they need the money the most."

He added: "The government has not only broken its promise to produce a strategy to tackle liver disease, but now they have taken away the money too. The progress we have seen in recent years is more at risk than ever before."

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: "Ministers must intervene and ensure areas with the greatest health challenges are not stripped of crucial NHS funds."

In a statement Paul Baumann, chief financial officer for NHS England, said: "We must ensure funding is equitable and fair and we have used … [last year's] review period to ensure that funding is based on up-to-date and detailed information and takes into account the three main factors in healthcare needs: population growth, deprivation and the impact of an ageing population.

"What is clear is that doing nothing is not an option. Some areas have not had the funding per head that they need, particularly where population has grown quickly and funding has remained relatively static.

"These areas are now at risk of not being able to provide the services needed by their population, so we need to tackle these differences in funding as a matter of urgency."

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