NHS funds moved to richer areas, Labour says

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Media captionThe health secretary said the NHS budget is rising throughout England

Labour is accusing the government of moving NHS spending in England away from poorer areas towards richer parts of the country.

It says this is because of changes to the funding for primary care trusts.

For years, areas which have higher incidences of poor health have been given a higher per-capita funding but this weighting is set to be reduced.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley called Labour's claims "nonsense" and said all areas were getting budget increases.

He said figures showed NHS spending was going up in real terms across England as a whole, and that Labour would not have matched that commitment if it had won the election.

"We're not taking money away from any parts of England, we're increasing the budget for the health service in England," said Mr Lansley.

"The average increase in each primary care trust is 3%, compared to [its] provision the previous year.

"The minimum increase is two and a half percent, and actually the minimum increase is going to Kingston upon Thames in London, which is hardly a poor area."

Labour, however, says the changes will mean less well-off areas such as Manchester and Tower Hamlets in east London losing out in the allocation of health funding, while more prosperous parts of the country - such as Surrey and Hampshire - will benefit.

Its claims are based on an assessment of funding changes made by public health bodies in Manchester.

Shadow health minister, Diane Abbott, stood by the report and said the NHS was under pressure because of a "misconceived reorganisation" by the Conservative-led government.

"A responsible government, which cared about health and equalities, that cared about the health of the poor, would not be taking money away from inner city areas.

"This isn't politics. This is about people's lives. This is about how quickly you can expect to get an operation, whether you get it as quickly as possible, whether you're made to wait artificially long - 15 weeks - rather than as quickly as possible."

The government argues that the funding changes were based on independent advice and that Labour's figures are misleading.

The Department of Health said primary care budgets in Surrey and Tower Hamlets would, in fact, increase this year by a similar amount.

It added that a greater emphasis on the prevention of illness in future would assist those living in poorer parts of England.

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