Fears town health funding could be slashed by £2.2m

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HEALTH bosses are to lobby the Government over proposals which could see Hartlepool’s public health allocation slashed by more than £2m.

From April 2013, Hartlepool Borough Council will be responsible for public health services as part of a national shake-up.

Public health funding this year for Hartlepool stands at £7.685m but there are fears under proposals the allocation could be cut to £5.297m within the next few years.

Health bosses sitting on the town’s shadow health and wellbeing board have stressed it is only an indicative amount based on a proposed formula.

But they say they will be making their views known before the end of a Government consultation in mid-August.

The proposed formula, devised by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA), sees those areas with more deaths under the age of 75 getting the larger allocation.

Health chiefs say this method does not cater for need or deprivation in certain areas, including the North East where levels of deprivation are higher.

A report to the meeting, which described the implications for Hartlepool as implied by the initial recommendations, said: “In monetary terms, this would mean a loss of £2.288m from the baseline budget of £7.685m to £5.297m.”

Louise Wallace, director of public health, said: “Clearly resources are very important when it comes to improving public health outcomes for people.

“We will be trying to keep as many resources in town as possible.”

It is estimated that nationally £5.2bn will be spent on delivering the new public health system, of which £2.2bn will be allocated to local authorities to fund their new public health responsibilities.

Mrs Wallace said the size of the national budget needs to be known as soon as possible and that funding allocations for 2013-14 and 2014-15 need to be confirmed soon.

Labour councillor Ged Hall, vice-chair of the council’s health scrutiny forum, said the forum was very keen to put their concerns in writing.

Coun Hall added: “We need to point out to the Government that this formula can have significant impacts in this region.”

Alan Foster, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There seems to be encouraging signs that people are listening to the importance of this.

“If we get some stability for two years that is good but the long-term effect is damaging,

“We need to respond in the strongest of terms, we need to do that.”

Nicola Bailey, Hartlepool Borough Council’s acting chief executive, said: “There is a lot of work to really try and ensure a co-ordinated response.”

Mr Foster said it was important to put forward an alternative formula adding: “It is about putting an alternative which is difficult to argue against.”

Work on an alternative method is ongoing.

New health and wellbeing boards are overseeing the health changes.

The funding proposals are set out in the Department of Health’s ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Update on public health funding’.