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GP funding found to favour wealthy areas

30 October 2008

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The way the NHS distributes cash to GPs means services in the poorest parts of England are being systematically underfunded to the benefit of the richest, a report claims.

Analysis of budgets allocated to GPs to pay for drugs and hospital care for their patients suggested that the wealthiest tenth are overfunded by an average of more than 2% and the poorest underfunded by a similar proportion.

On average, practices in wealthier neighbourhoods gained to the tune of £94,000 annually – the equivalent cost of 12 coronary bypasses.

The Health Service Journal found that only a handful of primary care trusts (PCTs) were passing on funds in line with the Department of Health’s “fair shares” guidelines for equitable distribution.

In 40 out of the 59 PCTs that responded, there was evidence that those in poorer areas got less than their fair share while those in richer areas got more.

According to the HSJ analysis, PCTs that tended to underfund practices in poor areas the most were Trafford, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Harrow, North Lancashire, Bolton, Kirklees, Hastings & Rother, Central & Eastern Cheshire and East Riding of Yorkshire. In Trafford, the GP practice in the richest area was overfunded by 13% while the poorest was underfunded by 21%.

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