Public sector organisations have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer urging that the forthcoming spending review bring an end to public health cuts.
The letter, from bodies which represent professionals across health and social care, criticises the government for cutting £200m from this year’s public health grant to local authorities.
It says the cuts, announced in June, are a false economy and will result in the NHS “picking up the pieces by treating preventable ill health”.
The Faculty of Public Health estimates that the knock on costs to the NHS could be in excess of £1bn.
The organisations urge the government to move to a more preventative agenda. “By reversing the proposed cuts to the public health grant, and investing in prevention and public health in the spending review, the government should be able to reduce the wider budget deficit,” it says.
It would “relieve pressure on our overburdened NHS, tackle inequalities and improve people’s health and wellbeing”, the letter says.
The letter signatories include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Local Government Association, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Nursing and the NHS Confederation.
The letter concludes by calling not just for a reversal in the cuts, but for a “clear commitment that no further cuts will be made to public health budgets in future years”.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is believed to be sympathetic, saying to the Health Select Committee in September that “we have to be careful that what we are asking for is a genuine efficiency saving and not something that will actually impact on the delivery of services.”
Rob Webster, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation, added: “There is an unprecedented consensus that we can only address the problems facing the NHS if we invest in the future of our nation’s health by helping people to stay well. Open any report from any director of public health in any part of the country and you can see health inequalities and poor health putting pressure on NHS services and blighting people’s lives.
“From our 2015 challenge to the Five Year Forward View, there is agreement that public health has a vital role to play, alongside care in people’s homes, in hospitals, and in the community. Investment in public health is critical for achieving a sustainable NHS and for addressing inequalities across society.
“We need the upcoming spending review to protect public health budgets, reflecting the Government’s commitment to transform and improve the way care is delivered to patients.”