Rural Shropshire patients 'getting raw deal with NHS services'

Patients in rural Shropshire are getting a raw deal with NHS services, senior medics claimed today.

Rural Shropshire patients 'getting raw deal with NHS services'

Extra cash for providing health care in the county will only cover the cost of inflation and do nothing to solve local funding problems, according to those in charge of services.

NHS England has revealed funding for the clinical commissioning groups for the Shropshire Council area will increase by £7.4 million to just over £353 million.

In Telford & Wrekin it will go up almost £4 million to £187 million for the next financial year.

The funds pay for all NHS services in the region, including hospital care for patients and GP services.

But the increase in budget for the next year will only balance the effect of inflation and does not reflect increased costs associated with local issues such as the ageing population or the increased price of transport in rural areas.

Dr Caron Morton, of Shropshire CCG, said the county was getting a raw deal compared to urban areas.

She said: "We believe that the challenges of providing modern, safe health services in a rural area are not sufficiently reflected in the allocations and are being under-estimated.

"We will continue our work to deliver the best possible health services for our patients with the resources we have and will continue to work with our MPs and make further representations on behalf of the people of Shropshire."

The increase was intended to balance out inequalities, with the most underfunded or areas with fast-growing populations receiving up to 2.8 per cent extra in their total budget allocations each year.

In 2015/16 the allocation is set to rise again, with Shropshire receiving an extra £6 million and Telford & Wrekin's going up by another £3 million.

Funding has been worked out based on a need per person, with population growth, the age of the population and social factors all taken into consideration.

Paul Baumann, chief financial officer for NHS England, defended the allocation.

He said: "In our proposals we have sought to move towards a funding formula that is equitable and fair and that balances the three main factors in needs: population growth, deprivation and the impact of an ageing population."

Star comment: Prejudice is county's real battle

At a time when Shropshire is fighting to keep its health service as a service which is fit for purpose for the needs of the county, the news that the extra cash coming only covers inflation is a hard blow.

The financial heat is on with savings being sought everywhere and this miserly amount of extra cash will mean that all the problems remain. Shropshire is standing still, which in the context of the times means that it is likely to move backwards, with measures and cuts which will mean a degradation of services delivered locally.

Not for the first time, Shropshire is calling foul. In the corridors of Whitehall they probably think Shropshire is a nice place to live and that is a reward in itself, that Salopians are all affluent folk, and that the real priority is urban areas where, as it happens, most voters live.

This discrimination against rural areas is seen in everything, from education funding to the delivery of high speed broadband. In reality, instead of having a lovely life in the fresh air admiring the Shropshire hills, Salopians have special disadvantages which justify this county getting extra help.

Accessing any services is difficult for those in the smaller towns and villages, and public transport is lacking. Shropshire has an older population, and the army of the retired in Shropshire need the NHS more than the younger people who typically live in urban areas.

Dr Caron Morton, of Shropshire clinical commissioning group, wants a better deal for Shropshire. The money, she says, does not sufficiently reflect the challenge of providing modern, safe health services in a rural area.

What it boils down to is that Salopians are being treated as second-class citizens with less important needs.

The battle that has to be fought, and has always had to be fought, is not just a fight to get more cash for the county, but to challenge the prejudices which are underlying the decisions which see Shropshire getting a raw deal time and time again.

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