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Health funding formula to address 'legitimate' concerns

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The way public health funding is distributed to local authorities could be “completely different” by 2014, the head of Public Health England has told LGC.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive designate of PHE admitted also that the current controversial funding formula had raised “legitimate concerns” in local government circles. The revamp should address such worries, he added.

“A number of very legitimate concerns have been raised and need to be thought through”, he said. “The test [of the formula] will be, does this have the support of local government? We’ve got more work to do to make that happen”, he said

Mr Selbie indicated the formula could undergo significant change. “It could result in something marginally different, or something completely different”, he said. “There’s nothing dogmatic about it at all. The evidence will determine what happens.”

The Department of Health has commissioned the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation, a panel of health finance experts, to rework the original version on the formula which it published last June, Mr Selbie said. That formula suggested awarding money to councils based on the mortality rates of under-75s in their area but has proved unpopular among  authorities.

North west authorities argued the formula was flawed because it would shift cash from deprived to more affluent areas. And eight central London authorities warned health secretary Jeremy Hunt the proposed formula would not take into account high demand for services such as sexual health and substance abuse in urban areas. This would “heavily negate” the benefits of putting councils in charge of public health.

John Middleton, vice president of the Faculty of Public Health and director of public health at Sandwell MBC, welcomed news of the revamp. “I hope this offers a chance to place more emphasis on actual levels of demand for the services councils will be responsible for, such as sexual health and substance abuse”, he added.

Councils will become responsible for public health in April, but the funding formula is not due to come into effect until 2015. The £2.6bn awarded to local authorities for 2013-14 was distributed according to historic spend by primary care trusts, which we will be abolished next month.


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