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Children’s health could be affected by cuts, say public health experts

Children’s health could suffer and drug related crime may increase if Treasury plans to cut £200 million from local authority budgets by next March are implemented, according to a survey of members of the Faculty of Public Health.

The Faculty of Public Health (FPH), which is the leading professional body for over 3,300 public health specialists in the UK, works to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

Key findings

•     259 of our members responded to a rapid survey about the potential impact of the cuts. The majority thought the following services would be affected by the cuts:
o    Interventions to reduce obesity: 77%
o    Smoking cessation: 66%       
o    Child health: 63%       
o    Drug treatment services: 61%           
o    Sexual health (including contraception): 61%        

•    One of FPH’s expert members has also analysed the potential impact of the cuts. They found that the 20 local authorities that could be hardest hit include areas as diverse as Chelsea, Cornwall, Knowsley and Norfolk (see Appendix 2 below).

Professor John Ashton, President of FPH, said: “No matter where people live in England, these cuts are a potential disaster for their health and healthcare.  For example, these cuts could lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies and drug related crime if people cannot access sexual health or drug treatment services.

“Even people living in wealthy areas will be affected. In addition, the growing divide between the ‘health-haves’ and ‘have-nots’ will get wider.

“It is a false distinction to think of NHS and public health funding as separate. The £200 million cut to the public health budget will hit the NHS, because councils commission some valuable NHS services, including sexual health clinics and quit smoking services. At a time when the NHS is already struggling, it can ill afford to take on this further strain.

“These cuts cannot be managed in a fair way: in particular, they will hit vital services where contracts have not yet been signed during the current financial year, and many already have been. FPH’s members are concerned that when the NHS budget for 0-5 year-olds - which funds health visitors - moves to local authorities in October, it will be especially vulnerable to such cuts.

“Cutting the prevention budget is a false economy. It will make it impossible to deliver the NHS Five Year Forward Plan, which stresses the importance of action on prevention and public health, was recently endorsed by ministers and which FPH supports.

“Rather than cutting public health budgets, we call on the government to protect them by maintaining the ringfence and introducing evidence-based public health measures that wi

ll make big savings, such as a minimum unit price for alcohol, duty on sugary drinks and levy on tobacco.

“It is time to match government rhetoric on tackling obesity with the necessary policies and budgets to create a healthy society”.

Written: 22/06/2015 , last modified: 17/09/2015