Raise public health funds, say charities

9 May 19

Charities, mayors, think-tanks and umbrella groups have called on the health and communities secretaries to increase investment in public health.

More than 80 organisations have signed a letter written by Cancer Research UK which says that a lack of funding has “severely compromised” authorities’ ability to prevent ill health.

The letter, written to Matt Hancock and James Brokenshire, noted that overall the public health grant is expecting to see a £700m real-terms reduction between 2014–15 and 2019–20 – a fall of 23.3% per person.

It added that local authorities have made efficiencies through better commissioning “but cuts are nevertheless impacting frontline prevention services.”

Research conducted by Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK shows that following year-on-year reductions to public health grants since 2015, services to stop people smoking have been persistently cut across local authorities, the letter said.

“Now, the majority (56%) of local authorities are no longer able to offer a stop smoking service to all smokers in their area.”

This, the organisations said, was evidence of local authorities’ “ability to provide the vital functions that prevent ill health being severely compromised”.

The letter claimed that taking funds away from public health is a “false economy” as prevention services can relieve pressure on the health service. “Obesity alone is estimated to cost the NHS £5.1bn every year, with wider costs estimated to be around three times this amount,” the letter said.

Signed by the likes of Age UK, the Local Government Association and the Mayor of London, the letter called on the government to back ups its commitment to prevention with funding.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy manager for cancer prevention, said the government needs to take “urgent action”.

“Local authorities have managed ongoing cuts as well as they can, but we have reached crisis point.

“The message is loud and clear: if the government wants to make its ‘prevention rather than cure’ vision a reality and ensure its £20.5bn investment in the NHS goes as far as it can, local services must be properly funded to support the health and wellbeing of communities.”

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