Spending on public health services will fall by £85 million as government cuts force local councils to reduce their budgetary plans.
Analysis from the King’s Fund has shown that sexual health clinics are among the council-run services which will be impacted by changes to funding. Councils will spend £2.52 billion on public health services in 2017/18, compared to £2.6 billion the year before.
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Spending on sexual health services will fall by £30 million compared to last year – a 5% cut. The budget to tackle drug misuse will fall by 5.5% from last year to £22 million, while stop-smoking services will be slashed by £16 million – 15% down on the previous year.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called on the government to reverse the plans it believes are ‘short-termist’ and ‘storing up problems for the future’.
RCN head of nursing Wendy Preston said: ‘It is deeply concerning the government is choosing to underfund health and care services.
‘Clinics led by nurses are extremely successful – the evidence shows investment in prevention and intervention services works for patients and gives better value to taxpayers.’
Spending on sexual health services has fallen by £64 million (10%) in the past four years, despite significant increases in some STI rates.
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Ms Preston said people are already struggling to access sexual health clinics, leading to further disease transmission.
The above reductions follow planned government cuts in public health funding of at least £600 million by 2020/21.
The cuts are particularly galling as last year Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that making good progress on public health has the biggest effect on health inequalities.
King’s Fund public health senior fellow David Buck said: ‘At a time when the rate of syphilis is at its highest level for 70 years, cuts on sexual health services are the falsest of false economies and storing up problems for the future.’
The Department of Health said it had a ‘strong track record’ on public health, with cancer survival and dementia diagnosis at a record high and smoking rates and teen pregnancies at an all-time low.
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A spokesperson said: ‘Over the current spending period we will invest more than £16 billion in local government public health services.
‘Moreover, we are willing to take tough action to protect the public’s health, including introducing standardised packaging of cigarettes, a soft drinks industry levy and a world-leading childhood obesity plan.’