Latest Public Sector News

03.08.15

Councils say £200m public health cuts ‘make no economic sense’

Councils are speaking out against £200m government cuts to public health after a long-awaited consultation on how the savings should be applied was unveiled on Friday (31 July).

The month-long consultation asks councils to suggest how the cuts should be implemented. It suggests either a flat rate of 6.2% applied to all or varied percentages based on different circumstances that would still add up to £200m.

The in-year cuts announced on 4 June are part of a wider government action on deficit reduction and would apply to 2015-16 health grants to local authorities.

Yet they could force several local authorities to save on money already allocated to long-term contractual health work in the NHS and other organisations, many of which require six-month notice of changes.

Many of the services threatened by the cuts are also required by law, including tackling alcohol and drug misuse, smoking and obesity, as well as generally promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Cllr Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council executive member for health and wellbeing, said the affected services are “vital to improving the long-term health of people in Leeds and every other community”.

She added: “Just as we were starting to see the benefits of targeted public health work in Leeds, with a narrowing gap between health between the poorest and best-off parts of the city, we are losing the opportunity to build on this and reduce future burdens on GPs, hospitals and other health and care services.

“There is an old adage that prevention is better than cure, and that is true not just for individuals but for the public purse. Withdrawing funds from prevention will see both individuals and the services they use having to spend more to cope with the long-term impact of these cuts.

“That just makes no economic sense.”

The LGA also opposed the in-year savings already coming on top “of a year-on-year real terms reduction in public health budgets”.

Chairman of the association’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: “Giving councils the ability to make a real impact to the health of local people was a positive step, but local government can only continue its important work such as reducing smoking or excessive drinking and tackling obesity if we are adequately resourced to do so.

“With further reductions in public spending expected next year we need to move away from a focus of treating sickness to actively promoting health and wellbeing. Cutting public health budgets is not the solution.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said that local government has made “significant progress” in improving the public’s health and added: “Though the government’s decision is a difficult ask of them, they are best-placed to manage and prioritise resources and I am confident they will with the least possible impact.”

When he originally announced the public health cuts (referred to by the Treasury as ‘Department of Health non NHS’), the chancellor, George Osborne, said the government was “getting on with what we promised”. He said: “Reducing the deficit – that is how you deliver lasting economic security for working people. For as everyone knows, when it comes to living within your means, the sooner you start the smoother the ride.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com  

Comments

Brianc   03/08/2015 at 12:30

Surely by cutting service provision in this way, we are condemning people to die as a result. The provision of appropriate services leads to people being able to recover, return to living and working in mainstream society, then contributing again to the economy. Is this cutting off nose to spite face?

Gillian   04/08/2015 at 09:55

It is interesting to note that the ones that professionals have focused on - alcohol and drug abuse and obesity and smoking - are a life style choice, although these are sometimes linked into Mental Health, this is an area that is sorely a "cinderella" particularly children's mental health. Surely it is better to use resources more wisely for people who cannot help how they are, whereas people who drink, do drugs, overeat and smoke all have a choice of whether to partake or not. There are lots of areas of Public Health like Oral Health where money should be targeted particularly on children. This is where health professionals should be most proactive because that is where the prevention starts, by the time they are needing medical services for conditions, it is way past the point of helping.

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