Public health cuts hit smoking cessation services

17 Jan 18

Local authority-funded smoking cessation services in England have been “dramatically reduced” following cuts to public health budgets, according to health campaigners.

A survey of local authorities by Cancer Research UK and anti-smoking charity ASH found around 40% did not provide a universal specialist service for smokers in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

Half of councils reported cutting budgets for stop smoking services in 2017.

According to Public Health England 15.5% of adults in 2016 said they were smokers, a decrease of 4 percentage points from 2010. In 2015, around 79,000 people in England died from a smoking-related condition.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy manager, said: “National decisions to cut public health funding are having an impact on the ground.

“A growing number of local areas no longer have treatment available for all smokers that meets the necessary standards.”

ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said: “The government should place a levy on the industry to fund the support smokers need.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing Board, said: “We urge ASH and Cancer Research UK to join our call for reductions in councils’ public health budgets to be reversed so stop smoking services can be offered to all those who need them, and to avoid greater pressure from being placed on already overstretched local services.”

Ring-fenced funding from central government for councils to provide or commission public health services in 2018-19 has been set at £3.2bn, down by nearly £200m from the previous year.

In his 2016 Autumn Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that public health funding would be cut by an average of 3.9% in real terms each year to 2020.

Under proposals in the local government settlement, the public health grant is one of a number of funding streams to be bolstered by greater retention of local business rates.

Local authorities in Greater Manchester piloting the retention scheme will not receive a public health grant.

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