24.10.18

Public health services need £3.2bn funding to reverse impact of government cuts

An extra £3.2bn is needed each year to reverse the impact that government cuts to the public health grant has had on health services.

The public health grant – which enables local authorities to deliver vital public services such as obesity programmes, drug and alcohol services and sexual health services – has seen a £700m real-term decrease in funding between 2014-15 and 2019-20.

The report, published by the Health Foundation, highlights that the cuts have not protected the areas with the greatest deprivation which “risks increasing health inequalities at a time when the government has pledged to tackle such injustices.”

The funding cuts equate to a fall of almost a quarter per person (23.5%) and come at a time when life expectancy improvements are stalling for the first time in over 100 years.

The Health Foundation says that additional money is now needed to reallocate the grant to help with “restoring damaging real term losses,” and recommends, at a minimum, that the government should reverse the real term cuts and invest in the most deprived areas by providing £1.3bn more in funding by 2019-20.

The independent charity says the remaining £1.9bn should be allocated in phased budget increases over the following four years.

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “While the secretary of state has rightly identified prevention as one of his three key priorities, the sustained cuts to the public health grant – a vital means of support for local authorities to tackle the causes of ill health – clearly run counter to this.

“At a time of ongoing wider cuts to public services that directly impact on people’s health, and with the NHS under intense pressure, the cuts to the public health grant are short sighted and irresponsible.

“The long-term consequences of eroding people’s health are likely to prove far costlier than the short-term savings made.”

The cuts to the public health grant are in addition to extensive cuts to the budgets of local authorities of 32.6% since 2010-11, which has led to falls to spending on wider local services.

Numerous health organisations have appealed for public health and social care to take priority in the Autumn Budget, or otherwise “risk the NHS failing to meet demands.”

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Image credit -  Lynne Cameron/PA Wire/PA Images

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