INEQUALITIES in health funding between urban and rural areas have been raised with ministers by a GP-turned-MP.
Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston tackled the government over why an elderly person with dementia in Devon received less than a sufferer in an inner-city area.
And the Conservative MP (pictured) also highlighted the 'huge implications' for local authorities of raising the asset threshold for eligibility to social care support to £123,000, and the £75,000 cap on care costs, particularly in Devon which has one of the oldest populations in the country.
She was speaking during a parliamentary debate which heard many local authorities in the countryside faced higher costs to deliver services than urban councils, while many rural areas generally had more elderly people who required care.
At the same time, there was a 'rural penalty' which meant councils in towns and cities got 50 per cent more per head in government funding, which was branded as 'indefensible'.
Despite representations being made to the Tory-led government, the latest cash settlement had reduced this penalty by just 0.2 per cent.
It meant the administration could claim to have narrowed the gap, but was dismissed as 'miniscule' by critics, who said ministers should 'hold their heads in shame'.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate into funding of rural areas, Dr Wollaston said: "For any condition that we might want to consider — be it diabetes, arthritis or dementia — rural local authorities' needs will be higher.
"How do we justify to one of our elderly constituents that they as a person or as a carer of somebody who has dementia is entitled to less?
"Why do we rate the value of an elderly person with dementia so much less in a rural area such as Devon than we do in an inner city area?"
She urged the government to consider the 'challenge of rurality' and tackle it by sharing funding more equitably to rural areas.
Responding, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis argued the cash settlement was fair 'to both north and south, rural and urban'.
Changes had been made to the way cash was shared out.
"As a result, funding per head is falling by less in predominantly rural authorities than in predominantly urban authorities, in all classes," he said.