Spending on public health in the region will be cut next year, it was announced yesterday (Tuesday, September 9) – despite Government promises to protect the NHS.
The amounts given to local councils – for services such as smoking cessation classes, obesity clinics, school nurses and drug and alcohol treatments – will be frozen.
The Department of Health admitted that meant a cut in real terms, after inflation, but said it was necessary because “the health budget is under a lot of pressure”.
Furthermore, it comes after cash-starved town halls have already been accused of raiding their public health budgets as they wrestle with huge cuts to their overall funds.
The cut was revealed in a statement to MPs, which announced that public health funding in 2015-16 would “remain the same as last year, at £2.79bn”.
It means County Durham will continue to receive £45.8m from next April. Other frozen allocations include Darlington (£7.8m), Middlesbrough (£16.4m) Stockton (£13.1m) and North Yorkshire (£19.7m).
In response to The Northern Echo, a department of health spokeswoman acknowledged:
“This is a flat cash settlement – so it’s a real terms decrease.
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, linked the decision to the recent closures of medical centres at Skelton and Park End – with Hemlington also under threat.
“It is quite clear that our local areas NHS is being cut for purely financial reasons, with no attention to clinical need.”
Budgets for public health were transferred from the NHS to local authorities last year, as part of the Coalition’s radical overhaul of the health service.
Ministers argued councils were better equipped to tackle problems such as obesity, smoking and pollution and – ironically – that the funds had often been “raided” by the NHS.
The cut comes amid growing pressure to increase spending on the stubborn causes of ill-health, to cut the long-term cost to the health service.
Cash has been diverted to areas including trading standards, citizens’ advice bureaux, domestic abuse services, housing, parks and leisure centres, they found.
But Jane Ellison, the public health minister, said:
“We want to see local areas continue their excellent work to help people lead healthier lives.
“The money has again been ring-fenced, so the focus will remain firmly on improving the health of local communities. This will be further boosted by an extra £5m to target priority areas.”
Source – Northern Echo, 10 Sept 2014
Family doctors have raised concerns that the NHS is being deliberately undermined by Government and persistent negative headlines.
More than 90% of medics and practice managers polled by Newcastle and North Tyneside Local Medical Committee believe the health service is being unfairly damaged.
Doctors fear that Government reforms brought in by the Health and Social Care Act are increasing commercialisation and privatisation of the NHS, while some medics have accused the Coalition of using GPs as political scapegoats to damage the profession’s reputation at a time of wide-scale change.
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association, said: “This NHS survey is very worrying because it is showing a huge percentage of concern among the profession.
“It is again saying that unless we start to protect the NHS and stop undermining it, we are in danger of losing something that is very important to British society and changing it out of all recognition.
“There are instances of the undermining of health services for political gain, with the blame falling very unfairly on GPs.”
Doctors have become annoyed that they are being criticised for failings in the NHS, with A & E increased attendances “unfairly blamed” on GP out-of-hours contract changes.
In the North East survey, as many as 93% of GPs and practice managers said they felt the health service was being deliberately undermined, with an average response of one doctor or practice manager per medical surgery in Newcastle and North Tyneside. Dr Ken Megson, executive of Newcastle and North Tyneside Local Medical Committee, said: “The NHS has been getting a kicking and moral is very low. I can’t understand why the profession is getting knocked all the time.”
Retired accountant Ken Sykes has used the NHS all his life and is happy with the level of care he has received.
The 72-year-old fears that the health service will be damaged by negative headlines and private companies entering the NHS.
Mr Sykes, a father-of-three, from Whitley Bay, said: “I worry about the future of the NHS and what it means for patients.
“My experience of the health service has been good and it alarms me at what is happening. It really gets to me when there is a campaign to undermine the NHS.
“If people are not happy with the health service now, then they don’t know what bad is, as it will get worse.
“Patients will suffer as private companies will not want to deal with all the nasty, tricky, long-term health complaints.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 14 April 2014