PAC calls for action to address public health funding variations

6 Mar 15

MPs have criticised persistent inequalities in local authorities’ public health funding and urged the Department of Health to move to address it.

Issuing a review of the work of Public Health England today, the Public Accounts Committee called on the government to publish plans on how it intends to move local authorities towards their target allocations.
 
A quick decision was also needed on whether the ring-fence, which currently protects the public health grant, would be retained.
 
PAC chair Margaret Hodge said: ‘It is concerning that the Department of Health is not getting local authorities to their target funding allocations for public health quickly enough, with nearly one third of 152 local authorities currently receiving funding that is more than 20% above or below what would be their fair share.
 
‘Thirteen local authorities currently remain more than 20% below their target funding proportions.’
 
The committee also said it had doubts about PHE’s ability to influence effectively both Whitehall departments and local authorities.
 
‘We are concerned that PHE does not have strong enough ways of influencing local authorities to ensure progress against all of its top public health priorities,’ said Hodge.
 
‘Given how important it is to tackle the many wider causes of poor public health, PHE needs to influence departments more effectively and translate its own passion into action across Whitehall.’
 
PHE was advised to target its advice and support on those areas where it would have most impact and to provide local authorities with the evidence needed to drive better decision-making.
 
Responding to the PAC’s conclusions, Duncan Selbie, PHE chief executive, said: ‘This is a fair and balanced review by the Public Accounts Committee and we welcome their recognition of the good start we have made.
 
‘We agree that there is more we can do and the committee’s recommendations will help guide us in our work with local government and the NHS to improve the public’s health. We will respond more fully in due course.’
 
  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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