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NHS reforms 'won't hit poor areas'

The Government is "not taking any money away" from deprived areas of England when it reforms the way health funding is allocated, ministers have insisted.

Labour claimed poor health rates will be given less consideration when cash is allocated under the new system, benefiting more affluent parts of the country.

It suggested areas such as Manchester and the London borough of Tower Hamlets would lose out to parts of the wealthy south east, such as Surrey and Hampshire, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed the claims, insisting the Government is increasing funding across every part of England.

"We are not taking money away from any part of England," he told the BBC. "We are increasing the budget for the health service and not just overall in real terms, but increasing it in each PCT of the country.

"The average increase in each PCT is 3% compared to the provision the previous year. The minimum increase is 2.5%."

Labour based the claims on an assessment of funding reforms by public health bodies in Manchester.

Department of Health officials said primary care budgets in Surrey and Tower Hamlets would go up by a similar amount this year.

Shadow health secretary John Healey said: "They are reducing funding to tackle poor health in the least healthy parts of the country, and shifting it to better-off, healthier areas.

"Less well-off areas like Manchester, Liverpool and County Durham will be among the biggest losers, with cash transferred instead to Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Surrey.

"The Tory plans will hit services that help people stop smoking, promote healthy eating and exercise and raise awareness about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. They will make it harder to prevent the big killers like heart disease and cancer, and increase the costs of poor health for everyone in the long-run."

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