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Joint plea to protect public health services

Eleven organisations appeal to Chancellor over funding

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 26 October 2015

Public health funding must be protected if the population’s health is to be safeguarded and to prevent future ill health, according to 11 high profile organisations.

The bodies, which include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Faculty of Public Health, NHS Confederation, Royal College of Nursing, and Local Government Association have sent a joint letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to highlight the issue.

The letter calls on the Chancellor to reverse the government’s decision announced in June to cut £200 million from the local authority public health budget in England from next January.

It is hoped the decision could be changed as part of the Chancellor’s imminent comprehensive spending review.

“This cut will have a direct impact on people and communities who rely on this funding, and it will have a direct impact on the NHS which will have to pick up the pieces by treating preventable ill health,” says the letter.

“The Faculty of Public Health’s own analysis suggests the eventual ‘knock-on’ cost to the NHS could well be in excess of £1bn. By any measure then, the planned move is a false economy.

“We urge you to consider very seriously the position we have outlined, to reverse these cuts in your forthcoming spending review and give a clear commitment that no further cuts will be made to public health budgets in future years.”

Faculty of Public Health president Professor John Ashton said: “Our members are telling us loud and clear that this is a cut to the NHS in all but name. It will increase pressure on the health service by decreasing investment in preventing ill health.

“Whether it is a quit smoking service in Manchester, a breastfeeding service in Essex or contraception and sexual health services across the country, the £200 million cuts are already having impact on people across England.

“The cuts may be a small part of the overall deficit, but they are a significant loss for everyone’s health: we estimate the cost to the NHS to be at least £1bn. It is not too late to reverse this decision and protect the public health ringfence.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said: “There is an unprecedented consensus that we can only address the problems facing the NHS if we invest in the future of our nation’s health by helping people to stay well.

“Investment in public health is critical for achieving a sustainable NHS and for addressing inequalities across society. We need the upcoming spending review to protect public health budgets, reflecting the government’s commitment to transform and improve the way care is delivered to patients.”

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