12 September 2008
A King's Fund report has said that the postcode lottery for patients with serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease persists, in spite of attempts to address it.
The report, NHS spending: local variations in priorities: an update, published on September 8, found that between the highest and lowest spending primary care trusts, there was more than a three-fold variation on mental health care, a 2.5-fold difference on cancer and a 2.2-fold difference on circulatory diseases.
It said that the variations could not be explained simply by the reluctance of some primary care trusts to spend money on new and potentially expensive drugs.
'Some of the variations will not solely be as a result of deliberate choices by PCTs,' said Professor John Appleby, the fund's chief economist. 'Even when local need and other legitimate reasons for variations in spending are taken into account, PCTs continue to spend varying amounts on cancer, coronary heart disease, mental health and a range of other diseases.'
The King's Fund analysis looked at spending on cancer, mental health and circulatory diseases, such as heart disease, from 2004 to 2007. The spending gaps were almost the same as reflected in the fund's 2006 report.
A Department of Health spokesman said it was for PCTs to decide their own spending priorities.