The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“A SENIOR doctor in charge of Westminster’s health care budget has criticised a government plan to make cuts of more than £53million each year that will hit the poor.
Westminster’s poorest residents are set to lose out in a government shake-up of NHS funding that will mean gaps between the rich and poor are no longer considered when billions of pounds of NHS money are divided up.
Ruth O’Hare, who is in charge of the NHS in Westminster, wrote to the finance chief of NHS England warning that the cuts would leave them struggling to make ends meet.
Currently boroughs where there are extreme “health inequalities” between the rich and poor get extra funding to tackle the gap.
Instead NHS England wants to plough funding into areas with high levels of elderly people.
In a joint letter with other senior doctors from central London, Dr O’Hare details the unique pressures faced by Westminster that make it likely to lose out under the new scheme.
The high level of rough sleepers and a shifting population of commuters and tourists puts extra pressure on doctors in Westminster every day, the letter claims.
Westminster has one of the largest health divides in the country with the richest in the area living for 17 years longer than their poverty-stricken neighbours.
A NHS report into “health inequalities” last year said the gap in life expectancy came from poor quality housing, education and jobs and the loss of public services that are relied upon more heavily by poorer parts of the community.
Westminster North Labour MP Karen Buck slammed the new funding plans and said: “This is just a massive cut. By and large London seems to do pretty badly and the cities seems to do pretty badly compared to the counties and the shires. So it is a shift away from needier areas to wealthy areas.”
She said she could not see how doctors would be able to continue to provide the same level of health care to the areas where health problems are more common, and added: “Traditionally we’ve had a real problem with the variation in health outcomes and life expectancy between the wealthier parts within our borough and areas like Church Street and Queen’s Park.”
Prof Richard Wilkinson, who wrote the book, The Spirit Level, about the importance of targeting unequal societies, told the West End Extra: “The government’s proposal to change the balance of local NHS funding from health inequalities towards the elderly means moving medical care from the poorer Labour city areas where health is worst, towards the richer Tory areas where health is best.”
The doctors also said no consideration had been given to the cuts to A&Es, like Charing Cross, that have meant more people are treated at GP surgeries and not in hospitals.
They said: “Those of us that have already shifted a range of services into the community should not be penalised for being at the forefront of this change.”
Ms Buck said: “We’ve been told that we need to cut down on the number of people going to A&E, we need to provide more care for people outside of hospital and at the same time they are saying to us now, that ‘we are cutting your A&E and we are taking away all your money for care in the community’.”