Postcode lottery’ of patient cash

PATIENTS are subjected to a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing drugs and treatment, according to new figures. Even when the socio-economic needs of local people are taken into account, there are wide variations in the amount of funding per hea

PATIENTS are subjected to a "postcode lottery" when it comes to accessing drugs and treatment, according to new figures.

Even when the socio-economic needs of local people are taken into account, there are wide variations in the amount of funding per head spent by primary care trusts across England.

North Herts and Stevenage PCT spends £61 per head on cancer and tumour treatments and Bedfordshire Heartlands spends £68 - compared to the £121 spent by Maidstone Weald PCT.

North Herts and Stevenage PCT spends £109 per head on mental health, Bedfordshire Heartlands spends £136 but these amounts are in stark contrast to Islington PCT which spends £259.


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In terms of spending on circulatory problems, North Herts and Stevenage PCT spends £145, Bedfordshire Heartlands PCT spends £127, compared to highest spending Wyre PCT with £173.

The figures were revealed in a report published by the King's Fund, an independent health think tank.

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King's Fund chief economist Professor John Appleby said: "This new data is very revealing and raises serious questions about the consistency of decisions PCTs make about how much they spend on different diseases."

A spokesman for Bedfordshire and Heartlands PCT said: "I think the main thing to remember is that local PCTs are in charge of 80 per cent of the NHS budget and we have to identify the needs of the local people while taking into account national priorities. We have to balance the two.

"We are a rural area and we therefore have differing priorities and needs from an inner city area.

"Most importantly I think it is important to look at the outcomes rather than how much we spend to make sure we are getting good value for money."

A spokesman for North Herts and Stevenage PCT said: "There are many different factors that determine how much PCTs spend on particular conditions.

"PCTs make their spending decisions based on local priorities and so some variation across the country is to be expected given the specific needs of local communities and the specialisms of local hospitals.

"PCTs provide information on spending each year to the Department of Health which then produces a report to give a national picture of spending. This is designed to help us compare our spending with other areas which have similar population characteristics to ensure we are allocating funding appropriately.

"We are always trying to find innovative ways of providing services within the community, which show good outcomes but don't necessarily require increased expenditure. Particular areas in which we are making good progress include an adult ability team where nurses and therapists can work together to help patients with neurological conditions and a pilot project to support early intervention in mental health.

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