Labour has accused the government of cutting NHS spending in England in poorer areas and moving funds towards richer parts of the country, citing 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 now set to be reduced.
Labour says that 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 Tory-run Surrey and Hampshire, will benefit.
Labour’s claims are based on an assessment of funding changes made by public health bodies in Manchester.
Responding to Tory denials, Shadow health minister, Diane Abbott, stood by her party’s report, saying that the NHS was under pressure because of a ‘misconceived reorganisation’ by the government.
She said: ‘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.’
Abbott insisted: ‘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 an artificially long time, 15 weeks, rather than as quickly as possible.’
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley claimed Labour’s allegations were a ‘nonsense’.
He claimed that official 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.
He said: ‘We’re not taking money away from any parts of England, we’re increasing the budget for the health service in England.
‘The average increase in each primary care trust is three per cent, compared to provision the previous year.
‘The minimum increase is two and a half per cent, and actually the minimum increase is going to Kingston-upon-Thames in London, which is hardly a poor area.’
However, inflation in the NHS, which requires all kinds of products, is much higher than the average, so even if the £20bn of cuts that the NHS has been instructed to make are not taken into account, its finances have been slashed by inflation.