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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 00:00 GMT
NHS funding 'reaching key areas'
Surgery
Hospitals are responsible for a large part of the deficit
A detailed breakdown of NHS spending shows money is reaching key health priorities, the government says.

Spending is rising in line with the increase in the overall budget for cancer and mental health treatment, Department of Health figures indicate.

The data was compiled last year from spending by local primary care trusts, which control 63bn of spending - 75% of the NHS budget in England,

Spending on metabolic problems such as diabetes and obesity also rose.

However, experts said extra spending did not necessarily equate to better standards of care.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is set to use the figures in defence of her record when she is grilled by MPs.

It is just half the equation; what we have not got is the results
John Appleby, of the King's Fund health think-tank

Ms Hewitt is due before the Health Select Committee on Wednesday as part of their inquiry into NHS deficits.

The health service finished last year over 500m in the red and critics have argued that key services, especially mental health, have been starved of funds as the health service tries to balance the books.

But the figures, compiled from spending by primary care trusts, local bodies which control 63bn of spending last year - three quarters of the NHS budget in England, showed many areas were getting increases in line with the overall 8.7% annual budget rise.

The money invested in mental health rose by 8% to 7.7bn to make it the biggest single spend area.

Cancers, the third biggest spend, saw funds rise by over 10% to 4.1bn. Public health also saw a 10% rise to 1.2bn.

Dentistry

Dentistry saw the biggest single rise - 75% - but this was put down to the cost of a new contract that PCTs took responsibility for.

Among the rest, metabolic and nutritional disorders saw spending go up by nearly 17% to 1.8bn. Government officials said rising diabetes and obesity levels were responsible.

The only major discrepancy in the key areas was spending on cardiovascular disease, which rose by just 1.3%. This was put down to the falling cost of drugs.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "What this shows is that the extra money is getting to the priority areas."

And the spokesman added he hoped the data would help PCTs compare how they were spending NHS money with other trusts in a bid to improve efficiency and care.

However, John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund health think-tank, said the figures did not show the whole picture.

"It is just half the equation, what we have not got is the results. Just because spending is increasing it does not mean we are getting better care."

Meanwhile, the Conservatives used other figures from PCTs to show the cost of providing out-of-hours GP care under a new contract, which came in in 2004, is three times what was expected.

The figures show that the government set aside 105m last year, but PCTs, which were given responsibility for the service under the terms of the deal, actually shelled out 346m.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The government has achieved a unique double-whammy - obtaining worse services for patients at a much greater cost.

"It is mismanagement of our NHS on a tragic scale."

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SEE ALSO
Hospital staff rally against cuts
11 Nov 06 |  West Yorkshire
NHS slipping into deficit again
09 Nov 06 |  Health

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