Birmingham Children’s Hospital faces major budget cuts despite pledges that NHS spending will be protected in the Government’s spending review, it has emerged.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has admitted ministers are considering making swingeing cuts to funding for children’s treatment.
It could cost Birmingham Children’s Hospital millions in desperately-needed income every year.
The cuts for children’s specialist services were revealed in an internal Department for Health memo, obtained by Labour’s shadow Health Secretary John Healey.
It revealed plans to reduce the “top up” payment currently received by children’s hospitals from 78 per cent to 25 per cent.
This is the extra money received by specialist children’s services for carrying out procedures. For example, if the NHS paid hospitals £100 to carry out a procedure on an adult, it would pay £178 to a children’s hospital to provide the same treatment to a youngster.
But under the proposals, this would be cut to £125 – a budget reduction of 30 per cent.
A spokesman said it was urgently examining how the changes would affect its finances, after the Department for Health wrote to all children’s hospitals warning it was planning reforms.
Mr Lansley admitted that ministers were considering cutting spending on children’s hospitals when he was challenged in the House of Commons.
He said: “The department has acted on the basis of a review conducted by the University of York which was initiated by the opposition front bench team’s predecessors when they were in government.
They set up a review on specialist top-ups which said that the payments should go down from 78 per cent to 25 per cent, not that they should be withdrawn completely.
“We are reviewing that outcome with the specialist children’s hospitals and a meeting is taking place to consider whether the review’s conclusions were accurate and applicable.”
In a statement issued later, the Department for Health said: “The Department is currently working with colleagues at Birmingham Children’s NHS Foundation Trust to understand the potential impact of any change, which will be key to informing decisions about the tariff and top-up arrangements for next year.”
Officials claimed they did not know how the proposed cuts would hit individual hospitals.
The statement said: “Information about the amount of income each trusts receives from top-up is not held centrally.”
Mr Healey said: “Why has no minister made any mention in public or in Parliament about this big stealth cut to specialist children’s hospital care?”
He added: “Big stealth cuts to our children’s hospitals are not what the public expected to see when they heard the Prime Minister promise to protect the NHS budget.”
And MP Shabana Mahmood (Lab Ladywood), whose constituency includes the children’s hospital, said: “I am deeply concerned about the future funding for Birmingham Children’s Hospital in my constituency, I will be raising this as a matter of urgency with the Health Secretary.”
Other NHS trusts providing services for children, including South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust, will also be hit by the reforms, although specialist children’s hospitals will be the worst affected.
The Children’s Hospital receives £3 million in charitable donations each year.
It follows the announcement that New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton is to shed 300 staff over the next five years.
The posts will be lost through natural wastage as the hospital attempts to save £9 million this year, a spokesman said.
The spokesman said: “We have no detailed plans in place as yet and if jobs do go we would pursue this through natural wastage first and of course, through redeployment.
“We anticipate a reduction of around 300 staff over a period of five years.”