ONS data highlight disparities in post-devolution health spending

12 Jun 08
Figures showing that Scotland spends over 20% more per head on health and social care than England have highlighted the post-devolution variations in public services and concerns over the Barnett funding formula.

13 June 2008

Figures showing that Scotland spends over 20% more per head on health and social care than England have highlighted the post-devolution variations in public services – and concerns over the Barnett funding formula.

The Office for National Statistics figures, released on June 9, show spending on health and social care averaged £1,963 per head across the UK in 2006/07, with a total spend of £119bn.

But funding levels varied between the four UK administrations, from a low of £1,915 per head in England to £2,313 in Scotland – more than 20% higher than the English figure. Wales spent £2,109 per head, while the Northern Ireland figure was £2,096.

NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards noted that Scotland had a historically higher per head spend than England under the Barnett Formula. But he said: 'The question is whether the population of Scotland is different to England in health needs. [Health in Scotland] would not be 20% worse.'

Higher health and social care spending in Scotland was also driven by the devolved administration's budget decisions, he said, adding: 'The system ought to be a fair allocation of the total amount, based on needs, and then how the local politicians spend their allocation is up to them.'

Katie Schmuecker, research fellow at think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (North), said the Barnett Formula was a 'point of tension within the devolution settlement'.

She added: 'The political reality is that there's a lot of pressure to address this issue now – but it is difficult. It has been an irritant for some time and statistical releases like this one only serve to draw attention to the disparity.'

But a Treasury spokesman said: 'The government has no plans to replace the Barnett Formula, which has delivered fair, stable and transparent settlements for the nations of the UK under successive administrations for almost 30 years.'

 

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