Further Health Budget Cuts Force Reduction in Public Health Services

A NUMBER of Reading’s early intervention, preventative and support services are facing cuts next year.

A budget cut of 2.5% (£253k) in Government funding for 2017/18 will have a far reaching impact on the range of health related services the Council is able to deliver. This cut is on top of savings of over £639k already identified for 2016/17, in the face of a £835k funding cut.

The proposals for setting the public health budget for 17/18 go before the Council’s Policy Committee on 5 December.

The outlook for Reading’s public health services is extremely bleak, with Government cuts eating into resources despite the rising need for support. Services identified as part of the cuts include:

  •  schemes that encourage physical activity;
  • alcohol screening;
  •  a reduction in the number of healthy eating courses.

Where possible, support with finding alternative sources of funding will be sought to help some projects to continue. However, with significant pressure on the Council to find savings and with no alternative funding within council’s budget, these services will be decommissioned unless external funding can be found.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Member for Health at Reading Borough Council, expressed his concerns about the impending cuts:

“As has been said by independent experts, cuts to the public health spending are the falsest of false economies. In the face of unprecedented Government budget cuts to the Public Health Grant, we are being forced to make some extremely tough decisions about where limited resources will have the most impact. It is inevitable that this level of Government cut will have an impact on public health services in Reading, and on the people who use them.

“The full impact of the cuts to these public health services is difficult to quantify in the short term but could prove highly detrimental to the longer term health and wellbeing across the borough. As we continue to lose the ability to sustain early intervention, preventative and support services, our fear is an increase in health inequalities. Inevitably, this could also undermine efforts to keep pressure off the NHS through improving people’s health.”

On 31st July 2015, the Government proposed its intention to make in-year savings of £200 million from the Public Health Grant across all local authorities, regardless of local deprivation levels. Readings public health ring fenced grant allocation for 17/18 is now £10,016,000.

Of further concern, the Police and Crime Commissioner Financial support beyond this year is still uncertain. Reading’s drug and alcohol treatment service currently receives a £284,635, and should this grant reduce or be cut in full for 17/18 additional savings will be needed.

The cut in funding for public health services is echoed across the Council, with the latest figures showing unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increasing demands on services. The Council needs to tackle an estimated budget gap of over £42 million by 2020. £65 million worth of savings have already been made since 2011.

A copy of the full Policy report can be found at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/9628/Policy-Committee-5-DEC-2016

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Notes

The King’s Fund (an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England through research and analysis) has described the Government cuts to the Public Health Grant as ‘the falsest of false economies’ that will ‘undermine commitments to prevention and discourage integration’.  Separately, the King’s Fund and the Local Government Association have published a series of ‘key facts’ about the health system and return on investment for some public health interventions.  For example, they estimate that unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, obesity, drinking too much alcohol and being insufficiently physically active costs the NHS £14bn each year  to say nothing of the associated social care costs. They also estimate that, for example, every £1 invested in parenting programmes to prevent conduct disorder provides a return on investment of £8 over six years; befriending services to improve mental well-being pay back £3.75 in reduced health care services for every £1 spent; and for every £1 spent on preventing teenage pregnancy, the NHS saves £11 (which does not include the savings in social care costs).