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Eleven public body CEOs urge reversal of public health cuts in letter to chancellor

Eleven prominent local authority and healthcare bodies, including the LGA and Solace, have penned a letter to chancellor George Osborne asking that the decision to slash £200m from the public health cash pot be scrapped.

The leaders said this planned cut, announced in the Summer Budget, would directly impact on people and communities who rely on this funding, and would have a knock-on effect on the NHS as it would be left to pick up the pieces by treating preventable issues.

They cited analysis by Faculty of Public Health – whose president Professor John Ashton was amongst the signatories – that suggested costs to the NHS as a result of public health cuts to local authorities would be in excess of £1bn – thus proving it is a false economy.

Prof Ashton also noted separately that Osborne’s “irrational cut to funding” would threaten the sustainability of avoidable health issues – as well as of heart disease, sexual health problems and unplanned pregnancies.

And many services delivered through the public health expenditure via local authorities also fund clinical NHS care, meaning cutting this fund would reduce NHS revenues. Because of this, they argued, it is misleading to suggest that the NHS budget is protected.

The letter added: “By reversing the proposed cuts to the public health grant, and investing in prevention and public health in the Spending Review, the government should be able to reduce the wider budget deficit, which you have suggested is the aim of the proposed cuts.

“Reversing the proposed cuts will relieve pressure on our overburdened NHS, tackle inequalities and improve people’s health and wellbeing.”

To strengthen the argument, they cited Hunt’s comment to the Health Select Committee on 15 September: “We have to be very careful that what we are asking for is a genuine efficiency saving and not something that actually will impact on the delivery of services.”

Co-authors of the letter already made submissions to government officials making the case for investment in this area as part of the future health and care system – but, through the letter, urged Osborne to consider their position “very seriously” and provide a clear commitment to reverse cuts.

Other signatories included the leader of the London Borough of Bexley and CEOs or chief executives of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the British Dental Association, NHS Confederation, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Royal College of Nursing and the UK Health Forum.


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