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Budget cuts hitting weight loss services

Public health specialists say weight management and exercise referral schemes hardest hit

Mark Gould

Monday, 20 July 2015

New research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) suggests that overweight people are being denied specialist help due to budget cuts across a whole range of frontline services which have a role to play in fighting obesity.

Weight management and exercise referral schemes seem to be hardest hit according to the Society's survey of 100 people working in public health. It found rationing across all areas of "lifestyle health" and budget constraints were cited as the overwhelming factor (by 78.89%) driving such rationing decisions.

The list of services being hit includes:

  • Weight management – 48.78%
  • Exercise referral schemes – 43.90%
  • NHS Health Checks – 35.37%
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – 31.71%
  • Alcohol treatment services – 28.05%
  • Sexual health – 28.05%
  • Drug treatment – 26.83%
  • Smoking cessation – 25.61%
  • Vaccinations – 15.85%

Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of RSPH said: “This snapshot suggests that funding cuts are beginning to bite and are having a direct impact on frontline services. Obesity, which Simon Stevens has called 'the new smoking', is arguably the number one threat to both the public’s health and our NHS, but people in the frontline are reporting that some of our most effective weapons aimed at tackling this threat, such as exercise referral and weight management services are being restricted.” 

Ms Cramer said that a strategy which undermines prevention "defies logic" and is only storing up problems for the future, which will be amplified in terms of cost and impact to our nation’s health.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, suggested the findings were linked to austerity affecting public health services.

“The survey is only a snapshot at a single moment in time of the full range of public health local services across the country and we need to be cautious about making wide-ranging extrapolation,” he said.

“The fact is, the entire public sector is under pressure. Resources are scarce, and health services – from the NHS to local authorities – are having to manage constrained budgets and rising demand.”

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