Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne should reconsider the decision to slash £200 million from public health budget, according to a letter from several healthcare bodies.
The letter, signed by organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Faculty of Public Health, and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, suggests that the NHS will have to ‘pick up the pieces’ by treating conditions that could have been prevented. It also states that investing in public health services such as smoking cessation and weight management will save money in the long run, which will help to tackle the wider budget deficit.
‘Cutting public health budgets is short sighted and will end up costing the health service more in the long-term,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN. ‘More importantly, these cuts will have a devastating impact on people. Well-funded public health services keep people healthy and teach them to keep themselves healthy. The benefits, both financially and personally, far outweigh the costs.’
The decision to cut the public health budget, announced on 5 June, has provoked concerns that the provision of services will increase pressure on primary care. It has also been suggested that London will be disproportionately affected by the cuts, with local authorities in the city losing as much as £40 million from public health budgets.
‘These cuts fly in the face of common sense. Not only do they hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest they will also result in untold additional costs to the NHS budget,’ said Professor Sue Bailey, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. ‘Public health spending should be at the heart of our overall health policy, not something that can be cut at whim. Local authorities are already struggling to deliver health services in communities. This ‘in-year’ cut, just made that task a whole lot harder.’