As the Government delivers the Autumn Statement it must recognise that economic recovery is impossible without investing in the public’s health and the system which supports it.
Whilst raises to the National Living Wage and some benefit payments are welcome we know that these are not matching the real-terms increase in living costs, with the end result being that millions of households across the UK will continue to struggle to meet even basic needs.
Cuts to public services will further compound the impact of this crisis, particularly for those already facing disadvantage. Unless Government offers proper resources for essential public health services at local and national level we will see already stretched health inequalities further exacerbated.
We cannot treat our way out of the current healthcare crisis. If Government wishes to deliver a true economic recovery and deliver on the ‘levelling up’ agenda it must invest in improving and protecting health.
As Andy Haldane, former Chief Economist of the Bank of England recently commented, “having been an accelerator of wellbeing for the last 200 years, health is now serving as a brake in the rise of growth and wellbeing of our citizens.”
Failure to invest in public health is a false economy. Compared with other wealthy nations, a strikingly high proportion of our health spending goes on hospitals, whilst comparatively little is spent on prevention activities that offer a huge return on investment and are the key to long-term, systemic and sustainable improvements in the health of the British people and economy. Government should not forget the central role played by public health in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the key role of public health as part of a national health service, including the need for a resilient health protection function.
FPH calls on Government to make additional investment into public health, including an increase in specialist training places, in order to;
- Support communities as they struggle with the cost-of-living crisis, and the wide-ranging impacts this has for health
- Strengthen the health protection workforce to deal with current and future pandemics
- Increase focus in the NHS on population health and prevention delivered through Integrated Care Systems to ensure the NHS can meet demand
- Enable public health professionals to lead on the health impacts of climate change
We hope that Government will support critical public health programmes as well as the specialist workforce tasked with ensuring their prioritisation, delivery and quality.
This investment is essential to protect lives and livelihoods, stimulate economic growth, and keep communities safe through these most challenging of times.