London primary care trusts facing the biggest health challenges are saddled with the greatest funding shortfalls, a new coalition of private and voluntary organisations has warned.

The London Health Forum, which includes pharmaceutical companies and charities, launched last week with the aim of promoting partnership work and best practice.

“There is an awful lot the NHS can learn from the private sector and an awful lot the voluntary sector can contribute,” said city fund manager and forum chair Nicola Horlick.

The body’s first report, World Class Health Services for a World City: the Olympic challenge facing London, draws together existing information about health in London to highlight the main issues facing health services serving the capital’s diverse and highly mobile population.

It highlights the fact that last year PCTs in deprived east London were funded below levels needed to cover rapidly growing populations.

“In the majority of areas in London, funding allocations are actually above target,” said forum director John Murray, a public policy consultant. “What is very striking is that the four areas which arguably face the biggest healthcare challenges - Newham, Haringey, Tower Hamlets and Barking and Dagenham - are all very significantly underfunded.”

He said figures for Barking and Dagenham showed improvement for 2007-08, “but the other three are basically exactly in the same place”. Barking and Dagenham has the greatest gap of any PCT in the country between its funding target and the money it has received since 2003-04.

One issue was that methods for gathering information on population shifts were “cumbersome and bureaucratic”, he said.

One of the first areas the forum will focus on is improving commissioning, particularly commissioning of services from the voluntary sector by the statutory sector, said Mr Murray.

The forum includes a range of charities including Age Concern, children’s charity 4Children, Diabetes UK, mental health charity SANE and the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations as well as global drugs companies such as AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Mr Murray told HSJ the forum would seek to greatly expand private sector membership to encompass big businesses such as banks and utilities companies.

The report says boosting take-up of immunisation among at-risk groups is one area where the group could exert its combined strength.

Mr Murray said the body was keen to build relationships with trusts and councils.

NHS London director of strategy and commissioning Paul Corrigan welcomed the new body. He said partnership work was “absolutely essential” when it came to reaching vulnerable groups. “There are some quite good relationships between trusts and local voluntary groups but nothing on this level,” he said.