Lancashire’s patients are being denied vital healthcare funding, it is claimed.
Figures reveal that cash support for general practices across the county is among the lowest in the country.
Data released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows the average funding per registered patient in Preston is £115.52 and Lancashire is £121.77 – compared with £136 nationally.
Only Greater Manchester at £116.43 receives less per patient than Lancashire.
The average payment per weighted patient in Lancashire – where the figures are adjusted for age/deprivation – is £116.69, compared to £136.01 nationally.
Health experts and politicians in Lancashire said the discrepancy in NHS funding for GP services could mean the difference between taking on an extra doctor or nurse.
In total general practices in Lancashire receive a total of £165m - compared to £382m in East Anglia.
The breakdown shows practices in Preston receive £115.52 per patient, those in Chorley and South Ribble receive £104.70 per head and Fylde and Wyre receive £133.54.
Peter Higgins, chief executive of the Lancashire and Cumbria Consortium of Local Medical Committees, said: “This shows a discrepancy in funding between Lancashire and England’s average very clearly.
“It means that we can’t recruit extra staff - we have more patients needing to be seen and the number of consultations has risen year on year but there is no money for an extra specialist nurse or doctor.”
He explained: “The way practices are funded is historic and not uniform across the country.
“There is significant variation in Lancashire and these figures just present an average. There is a national programme to even out funding over a five year period but there are winners and losers in this process as everything is averaged out.
“We would have preferred a levelling up particularly as income of practices has been steadily declining for the last 12 years.
“Lower income means that practices can’t recruit extra staff to provide the level of care and cope with demand as they would wish.”
The formula used to calculate how much is awarded to each area is based on a number of areas including patient demographics and mortality.
Chorley’s MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “This proves you have to be healthy in Chorley to be able to survive.
“This is north versus south. In Lancashire we are the poor relation but in England has a whole we are badly served in the financial divide in money per patient.
“It is unacceptable and unfair, I will be writing to the secretary of state for health about these inequalities. The extra funding could make the difference between having an extra doctor and then shorter waiting times.”
Preston’s MP Mark Hendrick added: “The reason, I believe, that the figures for Lancashire are low is because there is more likely to be less GPs per patient therefore the cost per patient is lower because more patients are attached to a lesser number of GPs. That is one of the reasons A&E at Lancashire hospitals has been under such strain and chaos, not just during the winter months but generally.”
The figures come just a week after the Lancashire Evening Post revealed claims GPs across central Lancashire are ‘burning out’ as they deal with a huge rise in demand from patients and they are struggling to cope.
Dr David Wrigley, who is a GP in Carnforth and also Lancashire’s representative for the British Medical Association said of the new HSCIC figures: “This is the first time this has been done, until recently we didn’t know the full details.
“Clearly this shows Lancashire compared to other parts of the country is receiving less than average funding.
“The overall funding for general practices has reduced year on year, despite the work load rocketing the funding has decreased. At the same time we have seen a huge explosion of spending on NHS restructures and management consultants.”
The British Medical Association’s GPs committee chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, added: “Many GP practices are struggling to cope with the growing needs of their aging populations on shrinking resources that is made worse by staff shortages and the wider transfer of more unresourced work from hospitals into the community. Politicians and NHS managers now need to focus their energy on ensuring overstretched and underfunded GP services get the resources they need to deliver enough appointments and services to their patients.”
Explaining how the funds are calculated, a spokesman for NHS England said: “Funding for GP practices is calculated using the Carr-Hill formula to ensure a standard approach across the country. The formula takes into consideration populations to calculate the total funding each practice receives, and reflects a range of factors such as patient demographics, mortality rates and rurality.”
And a Department of Health spokesman said: “GPs do a vital job and are at the centre of our plans to move more care out of hospital into the community, and our £1.2 billion investment will help GPs to offer more services closer to people’s homes.”
Healthwatch Lancashire and the MPs for Wyre and South Ribble were unavailable for comment yesterday.