Public health funding risk in worst-hit areas

A new report by the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that council-run public health is heading in the ‘wrong direction’ with funding ’significantly reduced’ over recent years.

Feeling the Squeeze: The Local Impact of Cuts to Public Health Budgets in England highlights planned cuts averaging 3.9 per cent each year to April 2021, with most local authorities reducing their budgets for stop smoking services, many of which had high prevalence rates.

BMA News has found that Bromley council in London decommissioned its service last year, although having high smoking rates among pregnant women, children and in pockets of its poorer quarters. Additionally, Blackpool Council had totally decommissioned its one despite official figures showing 22.5 per cent of its population smoke regularly.

Aside from smoking, Lambeth Council recorded the highest level of new sexually transmitted infections of all local authorities in England in 2016 yet cut its budget for sexual health promotion, prevention and advice last year by 85 per cent.

The report recommends a reversal of cuts, sufficient funding to cover a comprehensive public health service and adequate checks when services are replaced by alternatives, such as phone lines.

Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chair, said: “In some local areas, it’s the reverse: with budgets for smoking cessation and sexual health services being cut where need is greatest. Public health is going in completely the wrong direction in England. Instead of the ‘radical upgrade’ we were promised in the Five Year Forward View, we’ve seen it reduced to an unsustainable, minimal service in many areas.”

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