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03.02.16

In-year £200m public health cuts ‘harming services’ – survey

The surprise £200m in-year reduction of the ring-fenced public health grant to councils for 2015-16 is undermining health promotion efforts, an Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) survey has warned. Rosemary Collins reports.

The survey was distributed to all 132 departments of public health in England following the announcement of the reduction to the £2.8bn grant last year. There were 87 responders, of whom 78% said the cuts would have a detrimental impact on health, and 75% said they would increase health inequalities.

A further 63% said that by April 2017 they would have no reserves at all, while 13% would have reserves of less than £500,000. Responders also warned that services including health protection, drugs, weight management and mental health would have to be decommissioned or reduced.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Local Government Association community wellbeing spokesperson and leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “Devolving public health to local government was a positive step, and councils have embraced these new responsibilities. However, as ADPH’s analysis shows, the significant cuts to public health grants will have a major impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils.

“These include combating the nation’s obesity problem, helping people to stop smoking and tackling alcohol and drug abuse.

“Given that much of councils’ public health budget goes to pay for NHS services like sexual health, public health nursing, drug and alcohol treatment and health checks, these are cuts to the NHS in all but name. And it will put further pressure on other NHS services.

“We need to move away from a focus on treating sickness to actively promoting health. Investing in prevention ultimately saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services and ultimately improves the public’s health.”

One director of public health told the ADPH: “This is a big ask but it’s the same ask that is being made of other senior local government officers. The difference for public health is that we are starting from a more difficult position where it is still a new role for local government and one which is not yet as part of the DNA as it needs to be.”

It is not the first time that public health directors have spoken out against the move, which councils lambasted as “making no economic sense”.

Comments

Richard   04/02/2016 at 08:47

These are cuts to the NHS in all but name and can make no economic sense. National Health Executive is doing a great job raising awareness of this

John   07/02/2016 at 12:45

Efficiencies bought about by devolving healthcare (if any) should be saved and reinvested in NHS; not used as an excuse to cut budgets. Is this what is happening here?

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