People in poorer parts of affluent areas disadvantaged

14:00 15 October 2011


Health chiefs have raised concerns over the “distinct disadvantage” faced by people living in poorer districts of affluent areas of the county.

In a review of financial sustainability in the NHS by Kent County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), figures showed NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent received £1,725 per person for 2011-12 while NHS West Kent received around £220 less, with £1,499.

The west Kent trust commissions services for some 655,700 people in areas including Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling and Maidstone, which are viewed as more well-off areas.

But the trust also serves people in the more deprived districts of Dartford and Gravesham.

Chief executive of Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, Susan Acott, said the HOSC report highlighted an important issue in the difference in funding.

“Dartford and Gravesham are much poorer than the rest of west Kent and the life expectancy is significantly less in some wards,” she said.

“It is a distinct disadvantage to be a poorer district in an overly affluent area and commissioners must work to mitigate problems that arise from this situation.

“I think the HOSC should be duly mindful of this fact.”

Health profiles by the Public Health Observatory showed that men living in deprived areas of Dartford are dying eight years earlier than in the more well off wards.

Obesity rates show almost a quarter of children in year six – aged 10-11 – are classified obese. Some 3,440 children are also living in poverty.

In Gravesham, life expectancy for men is nine years lower than in more well off areas.

For people living in poorer areas of Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks, however, life expectancy is only four years less than those living in affluent wards.

Rod Smith, director of financial strategy and planning, NHS Kent and Medway. said funding allocation was decided centrally at the Department of Health.

Asked how the trust helped ensure people living in deprived areas received the required help, he said: “The funding formula that distributes money from the Department of Health to PCTs takes account of the size, age, and additional needs – including health inequalities – of the population.

“To allocate the money to emerging clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), a similar formula which is being specifically designed for groups of GP practices, is used. Therefore the overall mechanism directs resources appropriately and to where it is needed.”

A report by KCC’s HOSC said one of the “balancing acts” for commissioners was how much resource to allocate to services where there was a recognised need.

“The Primary Care Trusts are responsible for around 80 per cent of the total NHS budget and their role is to use the money allocated to commission services to meet the health needs of the people living in their area.”

The report added: “Each area of the country and, more locally, each area of the county, has different health needs and preferences around how and where services are delivered.

“On the one hand this is a positive thing, on the other this can be seen as providing an inequitable service if something is not available everywhere.”


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