THE health of people in south Shropshire is being put at risk by Government unfairness in the way it allocates funding - according to two top health experts.
Dr Caron Morton, a former Ludlow GP and now lead for the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, has launched an astonishing attack upon Government funding of health care.
She is one of two leading medics in the area saying that people are at risk.
Dr Morton, accountable officer with Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and Professor Rod Thomson, director of public health for Shropshire, believe the county is being unreasonably disadvantaged because of its rural nature and that patient welfare could suffer.
They have now vowed to campaign for fairer funding for patients in Shropshire.
The Government recently announced the funding the CCG will receive for the next five years. It will be given £347 million to pay for a wide range of health services over the forthcoming year. However it amounts to a real-terms reduction of £16 million over the next five years at a time when costs are increasing.
“We were surprised and indeed shocked when the announcement was made,” said Dr Morton.
“It is clear to us that Shropshire is losing out due to its unique health profile. We have a combination of rurality, deprivation, a rapidly ageing population and an increase in people with long-term conditions.
“Those factors rarely come together elsewhere and it means delivering healthcare in Shropshire is very expensive compared to other areas of the country.”
Dr Morton believes the county is being disadvantaged by changes to the complex funding formula used to allocate health resources and a reduced significance being given to the age profile of local populations.
She pointed to recent high-profile cases involving ambulance response times in the county to illustrate the difficulties faced.
“It is quite obvious that ambulances need to travel longer distances to reach the best facilities to treat patients in a large rural area,” said Dr Morton.
“This is an example of where we would like to increase funding if we had the financial resources.”
Professor Thomson said the grant for Shropshire is £29 per head compared with a national average of £49 and £133 and £130 per person in affluent Chelsea and Kensington
“There are unique challenges in rural public health – the sparsely populated areas and dispersed market towns, all need to be catered for, in many cases individually,” said Professor Thomson.
Shropshire councillors Karen Calder, cabinet member for health, and Councillor Cecilia Motley, spokesperson for rural affairs and chair of the Rural Services Network, have both supported Dr Morton and Professor Thomson.
It was revealed that last year that Ludlow’s hoped for £27 million new hospital and health village had been dropped after Government changes to the NHS caused crucial delays in the start of the project.