The Labour Lead for adult social care on South Gloucestershire Council has questioned the impact of a major cut in public health funding on council services and the local NHS, after councillors were told that the district would have to take a £558,000 share of a national £200 million in-year budget cut.
In July, the Conservative government announced that it would be slicing 6.2% from this year’s public health funding previously agreed, amounting to £200 million nation-wide. These funds are to reduce obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol misuse, provide regular checks on children up to five years old and adults over 40, improve sexual health and keep tabs on infectious diseases.
Public health spending is meant to be preventative, both improving health outcomes and saving the NHS money further down the line. Reversing public health spending dealing with issues such as obesity, alcohol and tobacco use and sexual health will undoubtedly worsen the health of affected individuals, increasing the burden on NHS services.
Members of South Gloucestershire Council’s Adults, Housing & Public Health Committee were told this afternoon that the district’s Director of Public Health “is actively looking at how the reduction [of £558k] can be accommodated in-year”.
Labour’s Lead on the committee, Councillor Andy Perkins, questioned the likely impact on NHS services that will have to deal with the consequences. The meeting was told that public health officials were waiting to judge the impact of next week’s Autumn Statement which is expected to demand even further savings.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Perkins (Woodstock ward) said:
“The Faculty of Public Health has estimated that this year’s £200m cut alone will cost the NHS an extra £1bn. I agree with their analysis that these cuts are a false economy. I also believe that individual patients are likely to experience poorer health as a result. We need to see more joined-up working between public health, social care and the NHS. The Conservative Government is certainly not protecting the NHS as it claims when the other sectors are being attacked like this.”