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DH announces public health funding to remain the same as last year

The Department of Health has announced that local authorities’ public health funding will remain the same as last year in real terms, at £2.79bn.

A further £5m in funding is to be made available as part of the Health Premium Incentives Scheme (HPIS), designed to reward local authorities that make improvements to their localities by providing cash incentives.

Under the scheme, which will be piloted during 2015 and 2016, local authorities will be rewarded for meeting one mandatory national public health target, related to improving drug and alcohol services, and one local target of their choice.

Minister for public health, Jane Ellison, said: “We have made a huge investment in improving public health across the country in the last two years.

“With this major investment staying in place for the next year, we want to see local areas continue their excellent work to help people lead healthier lives. The money has again been ring-fenced so the focus will remain firmly on improving the health of local communities. This will be further boosted by an extra £5m to target priority areas.”

The CEO designate of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, said: “Local authorities are best-placed to achieve improvements in the public’s health. The announcement of the public health allocations will allow them to get on with planning the services their communities need most.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "We are disappointed with the Department's decision not to protect real terms funding for 2015-16 by making it inflation-proof. We have consistently maintained that local government can only fulfil the new duties if it is sufficiently resourced to do so. It was good that public health was transferred from central government and it has to be adequately funded.

"Investing in prevention saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services and it ultimately improves the public's health and wellbeing of our communities. Local government has so far borne the brunt of cuts to public spending; any reduction in the public health budget could prove counterproductive.

"We welcome proposals that recognise councils for making positive progress to improve health and reduce health inequalities. Although only a small budget has been allocated to the Health Premium Incentive Scheme, it's not clear whether the Health Premium is the best use of scarce resources for public health."

Cllr Teresa O’Neill, London Councils’ executive member for health, said: “Since the transition of public health responsibilities to local government in April 2013, boroughs have been working with partners to improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and reduce health inequalities.

“Public health funding and resources play a vital role in the delivery of a range of preventative measures that help reduce pressures on health and social care services and improve outcomes for all.

“We will be looking closely at what the latest settlement means for London. In addition, we are keen to ensure that any future method of allocation appropriately reflects the public health needs of Londoners.”

A consultation on the technical design aspects of HPIS and distribution of public health allocations for 2015 to 2016 is now open for comment. The consultation closes on 23 October 2014.

(Image: c. Steph Gray)

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