Putting the case for changes to small rural hospital funding

Health Ministers will review the way small rural hospitals are funded following a meeting with myself and my colleagues Rishi Sunak MP (Richmond) and Robert Goodwill MP (Scarborough & Whitby). We have raised our concerns with ministers about the challenges facing Scarborough and Friarage hospitals on a number of occasions. The hospitals are classified as ‘unavoidably small’ because they serve relatively small populations but, owing to their remote locations, need to provide as wide a range of services as possible so that patients don’t have to make unnecessarily long journeys, often in discomfort, to seek medical care. As a consequence these hospitals cost more to run.

I certainly welcome any reform to the system. Although the hospitals do receive some extra funding because of their size and location, it doesn’t make up for the fact that they don’t receive extra ‘payments by results’ which some of the larger hospitals qualify for. This is not fair to our constituents who are just as entitled to the excellent health care enjoyed by people living near much bigger hospitals.

Health Minister, Edward Argar MP, agreed to consider the way small hospitals are funded, taking the matter up with the NHS to see what more can be done to better meet the needs of small, rural hospitals.

We certainly don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul but we would like to see a fair share of the additional £33.9 billion recently announced by the Government for the NHS allocated to small hospitals like Scarborough and the Friarage.

Robert Goodwill added ”This situation has gone on too long. The funding arrangements need to recognise that we can’t achieve the economies of scale enjoyed by hospitals in big cities but we still need to deliver a wide range of services and minimise the number of patients who have to travel to York”.

Rishi Sunak, who has recently been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, welcomed the meeting with the Minister to discuss small hospital funding. He said: “The issues rural hospitals, like the Friarage, face are different both in terms of the size of the areas they serve and meeting the ever-rising clinical standards of care. These issues should be adequately reflected in the NHS funding formula.”