Hospital Dr News

Public health in crisis and next government must take urgent action

The UK is facing a ticking time bomb in public health, with a lack of leadership and budget cuts threatening the sustainability of the NHS.

This is the message from the BMA as obesity rates remain stubbornly high across the UK, nearly one in six adults still smoke, and 7.8 million adults binge drink.

The doctors’ union says politicians have been too slow and weak in tackling these challenges – from a watered-down childhood obesity strategy and failure to publish a new tobacco control plan, to the lack of recognition of the need for a new alcohol strategy.

In its manifesto, A Vote for Health, the BMA is calling for urgent action to improve the health of the population and reverse cuts to public health.

It is calling on all political parties to:

  • Work with health professionals to deliver a public health strategy focused on tackling the causes of ill-health over a generation; and
  • Prioritise measures to tackle the impact of unhealthy food and drink, tobacco and alcohol on the public’s health.

The BMA is calling for a tougher sugar tax, and a mandatory traffic light approach to displaying nutritional information for all pre-packaged food and drink products.

It also wants new rules for advertising junk food to children, and new targets for sugar reduction, and widen this to include fat, salt and overall calories.

Commenting, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “When it comes to public health, the UK is going backwards. Prevention is better than cure and cuts to public health have a damaging impact on individuals’ health and wellbeing, and end up costing the NHS more in the long term.

“In England, successive governments have failed to deliver a long-term plan to improve public health, and too often evidence-based public health measures have been kicked into the long grass. We need tighter regulation of the food and soft drinks industry, a minimum unit price on alcohol and support for people to quit smoking.

“Whoever is in government next, must make tackling the crisis in public health a priority. With the NHS at breaking point, and demand on services only set to rise we are facing a ticking time bomb.”

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