Public health services ‘need £3.2bn a year extra’

24 Oct 18

Local authority public health services in England need an extra £3.2bn a year to reverse the impact of government cuts, a health think-tank has warned.

Grant funding for things like obesity programmes, drug and alcohol services and sexual health services will suffer a real-terms funding reduction of £700m between 2014-15 and 2019-20, according to analysis by the Health Foundation.

The think-tank estimated that this £700m funding cut equates to almost a quarter (23.5%) per person.

The Health Foundation, in the briefing note released today, said that as a minimum the government should allow additional investment in the most deprived areas by providing an additional £1.3bn in 2019-20.

The remaining £1.9bn a year should then be allocated in phased budget increases over the following four years, with further adjustments for inflation.

A lack of strategy in distribution of funding “risks widening health inequalities” the report said, with the areas in greatest need suffering most.

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “At a time of ongoing wider cuts to public services that directly impact on people’s health, and with the NHS under intense pressure, the cuts to the public health grant are short sighted and irresponsible.

“The long term consequences of eroding people’s health are likely to prove far more costly than the short term savings made.”

Bibby urged the government to address the lack of investment in public health in the forthcoming budget.

Total public health grant to local authorities in 2018-19 came to £3.215bn.

Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Despite budget reductions, councils are determined to maintain vital public health services to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives, but the reality is that many local authorities are having to make difficult decisions on these key services, including stopping them all together.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the government has “a strong track record on public health”.

They added: “Prevention is a top priority and we believe there is always more to be done – which is exactly why we are giving £16 billion to local councils to fund public health services over the current spending period, and we will soon publish our prevention vision.”

NHS ‘losing billions every year through bullying’

Bullying and harassment in the NHS costs more than £2bn a year, a separate study, also released today, has estimated.

The research, published in CIPFA-owned journal Public Money & Management, found that factors including sickness absence, employee turnover, reduced productivity and morale and lower efficiency all come as a result of workplace bullying.

Almost one in four NHS staff reported being bullied or harassed by colleagues, according to a recent NHS England staff survey, which is referenced in the research.

Duncan Lewis from the University of Plymouth, a co-author of the research, said: “Estimating the financial cost of bullying should not come at the expense of the moral reasons for tackling bullying and harassment.

“Nonetheless, if our paper means that NHS trust executives realise the heinous costs of bullying, they may then think about where the additional resources currently wasted through bullying and harassment might be better deployed, which ultimately means more effective patient care.”

Separately, the GMB union found that ten ambulance trusts in England paid £235m on private ambulances in just three years.

South Central Ambulance spent almost £69m between 2015 and 2018, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, released on Sunday.

Last week, NHS Improvement opened its consultation into wholly owned subsidiaries in the NHS.

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