Investment in primary care services fell by almost £30 million last year, while hospital spending rocketed by more than £700 million, according to figures obtained from PCTs.
Ministers' stated aims include transferring work out of hospitals and into community settings, with funding following the patient. However, in 2011/12 expenditure on acute care rose by 1.4 per cent while spending on general practice fell by around 0.2 per cent. Primary care investment increased by around 3.5 per cent over the preceding two years.
The findings, published in Pulse magazine, suggest primary care services are an easy target for cuts as trusts seek to make efficiency savings of around £20 billion by 2015.
West Yorkshire nurse partner Ghislaine Young (pictured) said: 'It is demotivating. Coupled with changing QOF targets, which demand more work, and the distraction of the reforms, it is quite frustrating news.'
NHS Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said it was unacceptable that some hospitals were able to maintain their levels of investment despite decreases in the number of elective operations and unplanned admissions.
'We haven't yet got a system that is sensitive to where patients are going for care,' he said. We need a far more effective mechanism for doing that. Perhaps there is a role for Monitor in making sure that where demand for services is going down, the money gets reallocated appropriately.'
A spokesman for the DoH said its data suggested that the NHS is starting to treat more people in the most appropriate setting and preventing unnecessary admission.
'Moving care away from hospitals and treating patients closer to their homes, in the community, is not only better for patients, but a better use of NHS resources,' he added.