Anger at 'Labour bias' in health funds

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Indy Politics

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, was accused of "breathtaking arrogance" after saying patients in Tory constituencies needed less NHS funding because they had the "good fortune" to be healthier than many patients in Labour seats.

The Health Secretary caused a furious row at a heated meeting of a Commons select committee when she was challenged by Tory MPs over the "unfair" funding system which they claimed had left hospitals in Conservative seats facing bigger deficits than in Labour constituencies.

In angry exchanges with Tory MP Mike Penning, she was asked to justify the £1,300 per head allocated to her Leicester East constituency, against the £960 per head in Mr Penning's Hertfordshire constituency. He said if his constituency received an extra £100 per head, two trusts being forced to consider a merger to cut costs would be taken out of the deficit.

That prompted Ms Hewitt to retort: "Your constituents have the good fortune to be significantly healthier than my constituents."

Mr Penning accused Ms Hewitt of "breathtaking arrogance" and described her remarks as "the most complacent and patronising evidence I have ever heard", adding: "She gets nearly £400 per head more than I do for the NHS because my constituencies aren't as sick - it's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard."

Another Tory MP, David Amess, questioned whether it was coincidence that those with less funding tended to be in Tory areas.

Ms Hewitt said there was "no correlation" in terms of how the NHS was run.