NHS funding: 'The formula is unfair and discriminatory'

AT A time when there is growing pressure on the health service to deliver higher standards of care, the news that NHS Lothian has significantly less money to spend per head of population than many parts of the country is of serious concern.

What is even more worrying is that the gulf is actually widening compared with the likes of Glasgow because the government continues to base the amount it allocates each health board on a formula which has now been found to be unfair and discriminatory.

Recognising that this method of sharing out resources was based on outdated concepts – largely population, death rates and deprivation – the NHS Scotland Resource Allocation committee was set up in 2005 to reform the system.

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In 2007 it submitted its report to Holyrood proposing changes which were designed to keep pace with changing trends and needs and were based on a more accurate assessment of the special service needs of each board area.

But their recommendations have never been fully implemented. Were they to be, NHS Lothian would fare far better than it does at present and the funding gap – which sees Glasgow able to spend 25 per cent more per person – would be narrowed.

Audit Scotland highlighted the issue last year when it reported that those boards which had benefited under the old Arbuthnott Formula should not be disadvantaged under the new system by having their allocation reduced.

The ombudsman's report suggested the onus was on the government to narrow the gap and make the system fairer by making more money available to the likes of NHS Lothian.

There is no doubt that this would be a fair approach, and one which would allow the local NHS to offer an improved service to patients. The current financial climate may make it hard to bring about this change – but the SNP Government should at least acknowledge the health deficit in areas like the Lothians and commit itself to addressing it.

Bright thinking

IT is disturbing that there is a need on consecutive days to highlight major infrastructure failings on Princes Street.

Yesterday the News reported on the disgraceful state of the pothole-riddled carriageways. Today we reveal that many of the street's lights are not working.

The council has promised that remedial works on the carriageways will begin within the month and although shorter nights are fast approaching the lighting problem will be tackled urgently.

But perhaps allowing the amount of artificial light to diminish could be a subtle ploy by the council to restrict people from seeing just what a mess the street is really in.