Councils plan £85m cuts to public health spending

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New analysis from the King’s Fund* shows councils plan to cut budgets on a range of services including sexual health services, with cuts set to reach £85m.

According to the King’s Fund, local authorities are planning to spend £3.4 billion on public health services in 2017-18. Once inflation is factored in, however, the think-tank estimates that councils will actually spend £2.52 billion.

This planned public health spend in 2017-18 is 5 percent less than the amount spent in 2013-14.

Sexual health services are among those facing the biggest cuts, a move the King’s Fund called “short-sighted” in light of a spike in the number of reported syphilis cases.

Services for drug addiction and helping people stop smoking are also in line for the biggest cuts. However, spending has been protected for some services including those for children and those promoting physical activity.

The King’s Fund found that planned spending on sexual health services would be cut by £30 million this year, with drug addiction services seeing cuts of £16 million and stopping smoking services £16 cuts of £16 million.

Data was collected from local governments and the Department of Communities to calculate the figures. The report’s author, David Buck, Senior Fellow in Policy at the King’s Fund, said the cuts were: “the falsest of false economies and storing up problems for the future”.

He added: “The government must reverse these cuts and ensure councils get adequate resources to fund vital public health services.”

Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, Shirley Cramer, called the cuts “devastating”, adding: “When the NHS itself has called for a ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ to save the service from collapse, it is reckless to be doing the exact opposite.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: “We have a strong track record on public health. Over the current spending period we will invest more than £16 billion in local government public health services.

“Moreover, we have shown that we are willing to take tough action to protect the public’s health – introducing standardised packaging of cigarettes, a Soft Drinks Industry Levy and a world leading childhood obesity plan.”

*The King's Fund is an independent charity and think tank whose aim is to ensure the best possible health and care is available to all.