Green paper to prevent ill-health a ‘disappointment’

23 Jul 19

The government’s prevention green paper has been branded a “missed opportunity” by local government and health bodies. 

The document sets out ambitions to end smoking in England by 2030, ban the sale of energy drinks to under-16s and make tobacco companies pay a levy to help those with smoking related diseases.

Released late on Monday, the paper claimed the proposals put preventions “at the centre” of the departments decision-making.

But Ian Hudspeth, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said the proposals must be back by funding for councils’ public health grant, which has been cut by £700m over the last five years.

He said: “This community green paper, while containing some ambitious and interesting ideas, is a missed opportunity to make the most of councils’ role and expertise in meeting our shared vision for a healthier nation.

“Everyone agrees that prevention is better than cure, but councils also need adequate funding for their public health services to help achieve the stated aims of this approach.”

The green paper seeks to reduce the number of years people spend in poor health, which disproportionately affects those in more deprived areas.

Women living in the 10% most deprived areas can expect to live 18 fewer years in good health than those in the 10% least deprived areas, the paper said.

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said the paper was a “missed opportunity” to reduce these inequalities.

She added: “Perhaps unsurprisingly at a time of political uncertainty, the government has stepped back from the bold action require.

“But this should concern us all when ambitious whole-government action is urgently needed to tackle the root causes of ill-health – including poverty, deprivation, poor housing, poor quality work, social isolation and poor quality environments.”

The government resisted extending the sugar tax to milk-based sugary drinks and said: “If the evidence shows that industry has not made enough progress on reducing sugar, we may extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to sugary milk drinks”.

The paper also proposed the launch of a health index to help “track the health of the nation, alongside other top-level indicators like GDP”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said on Twitter that the paper was an “utter disappointment”.

Ashworth's full response can be found here

The BBC and The Guardian both reported a dispute between health secretary Matt Hancock and outgoing prime minister Theresa May – who insisted it be published under her premiership.

Public Health England’s chief executive Duncan Selbie used his speech at CIPFA’s annual conference to call for more funding to be put into prevention services.

Social care providers are still awaiting the six-times delayed social care green paper, which was promised in the Budget of March 2017. The social care green paper was originally going to be published in summer 2017.

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