The authors of the King's Fund report on London's mental health services (Johnson et al, 1997) argued that the formula used by the Department of Health to allocate resources to health authorities fails to meet the needs of inner cities. It is difficult to explore this issue because the principal allocation to district health authorities is set out as a single figure, with no subdivisions for separate clinical areas. This differs from local government finance, where annual allocations are itemised in a report detailing both major components (education, social services and road maintenance), and subdivisions of these (House of Commons, 1998). However, in the process used by the Department of Health to calculate health service allocations, several areas of clinical work, including the care of the mentally ill and learning disabled, receive distinct consideration. An annual publication sets out the detail (NHS Executive, 1998). Slight reworking allows the identification of implied allocations for the following clinical areas: general and acute; mental illness and learning disability; and other community care. This paper outlines the methodology and shows the allocations to health authorities in England for 1990–2000.