Community health funding ‘inequitable’

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A HEALTH trust boss is calling for more investment in community services as part of a bid to bring care closer to people’s homes.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust boss Alan Foster highlighted a gap between the amount of funding provided by NHS Tees for the trust to commission community health services in Hartlepool and Stockton.

During a trust board directors’ meeting, Mr Foster said funding for the two towns was “inequitable”.

At present NHS Tees allocates £10.6m for Hartlepool community health services, such as health visitors, school nurses and some departments at One Life Hartlepool, and £14m for Stockton’s community health services.

But it works out that Stockton gets less per person.

However, when new clinical commissioning groups replace primary care trusts in April, the money will come from a single pot.

A report to the meeting revealed the trust had surplus funding of £671,818 for community services in 2011-12.

But Mr Foster told the meeting: “I’ve always felt community services were under-funded.

“When you compare what’s spent in Hartlepool and Stockton, it’s inequitable. We have more budget transfer from Hartlepool than Stockton and I think the figures here bear this out.”

He called for more money to be invested in caring for people outside of hospital so care can be brought closer to people’s homes. This is in line with the vision of the Momentum: Pathways to Healthcare programme, which also includes replacing the two hospitals with a single site at Wynyard, costing £299m.

Mr Foster added: “If we are going to keep our length of stay down and keep up with the growing elderly population, then we need to put the pathways in and we need some investment in community services.

“If we can get some efficiency out of the hospital and reinvest it in the community, it gives us a more powerful argument with commissioners to keep people well in local communities if we are going to have care closer to home.”

Ali Wilson, chief officer of NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group, told the Mail: “While the NHS trust provides services across Hartlepool and Stockton, the community services in Hartlepool and Stockton have in the past been commissioned by two separate Primary Care Trusts.

“As each PCT has had different service priorities, historically different community and related services and a different budget, this has led to some differences in the services commissioned from the trust.

“However NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG over the last year has been listening carefully to what local people and local clinicians consider to be priorities for community services.

“We have therefore been working closely with the trust to redefine the range of services and service outcomes required for the whole of Hartlepool and Stockton populations.

“From April there will be a single budget to fund the services and required outcomes across the area.

“This will clearly result in greater equity in service provision and improved health outcomes.”