Spending review will be government’s public health ‘litmus test’ – think tank

The upcoming Spending Review on 25 November will be a “litmus test” of whether the government is committed to investing in public health and prevention, a report by the King’s Fund has said.

Despite public health bulletins featuring “prominently” in the NHS Five Year Forward View – which outlines that a “radical upgrade” of prevention is needed to  safeguard the sustainability of the NHS, the country’s economic prosperity and the population’s health – the government has done little in the way of it so far.

“To date, this narrative has been accompanied by little in the way of tangible policy initiatives, with the government’s only notable intervention being to rule out a tax on sugar when this was suggested by a junior health minister,” the report said.

It described George Osborne’s decision to cut public health budgets by £200m as a “worrying signal” that public health may face further cuts in November.

Earlier this month, councils spoke out against the cuts after a consultation on how they should be applied, saying they made “no economic sense”.

They argued that the savings 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 public health cuts are also required by law, including tackling alcohol and drug misuse, smoking, obesity, and generally promoting a healthier lifestyle.

At the time, Cllr Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “Just as we were starting to see the benefits of targeted public health work in Leeds, with a narrowing gap in 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.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, added that councils can only “continue its important work such as reducing smoking or excessive drinking and tackling obesity” if they are “adequately resourced”.

However Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, assured that local government had made “significant progress” in improving public health.

He said: “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.”

The consultation, which suggests applying cuts either at a flat rate of 6.2% applied to all councils or varied percentages based on different circumstances, is due to close at the end of August.

Public health budgets, which already lie outside the NHS ring-fence, will also face increased pressure as services for children aged 0-5 are transferred to councils in October – thus facing the same cuts.

When the chancellor originally announced cuts to public health (referred to by the Treasury as ‘Department of Health non NHS’), he said the government was “getting on with what we promised”.

“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,” he said.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest news

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

23/06/2020Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

Evolution is crucial in any business and Public Sector Executive is no different. Long before Covid-19 even became a thought in the back of our minds, the team at PS... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

public sector events

events calendar


August 2020

mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6

featured articles

View all News