About £15.7m is likely to be slashed from funding to help people in the North East lose weight and quit smoking, according to the Northern Echo.
The Government is poised to cut each local council’s public health budget by 7.8 per cent immediately, in the first round of George Osborne’s post-election cuts.
The move will swipe cash for services such as smoking cessation classes, obesity clinics, school nurses and drug and alcohol treatments.
And it will go ahead despite warnings of an obesity epidemic and evidence that tackling the stubborn causes of ill-health can cut the long-term cost to the health service.
The Chancellor announced a £200m “in-year” cut to public health budgets earlier this month, but did not set out where the pain would fall.
Now The Northern Echo has been told that three options will be set out, possibly as early as this week:
* A 7.8 per cent cut “across-the-board”.
* Steeper cuts for councils deemed to be historically overfunded.
* Taking the entire £200m from local authorities yet to spend the money and with reserves.
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