William Eichler 04 March 2019

Councils have delivered on public health despite cuts, report reveals

Local authority delivery of public health is ‘effective, accountable, efficient’ despite losing millions in central Government cuts, data reveals.

The Local Government Association has published a report revealing that councils have ‘significantly improved’ the majority of public health outcomes despite cuts to their funding.

Since taking over responsibility for public health in 2013, councils have maintained or improved 80% of the public health outcomes of the nation.

Sexual health clinics have seen attendances and testing go up, while the teenage conception rate has dropped by 23% from 2013/14.

The overall number of adults smoking cigarettes in England between 2011 and 2017 fell by around 1.6 million, to 6.1 million.

The majority of people (98%) waited three weeks or less from first being identified as having a substance misuse treatment need to being offered an appointment to start an intervention, the LGA also found.

These improvements—and more— have happened despite councils seeing reductions of £531m in cash terms between 2015/16 and 2019/2020 to the public health budget.

Responding to the report’s findings, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘Public health has been a real success story for councils since 2013.

‘The data we present here demonstrates that the local authority delivery of public health is effective, accountable, efficient and offers great value for money.

‘There is no silver bullet for England’s main public health challenges, the immediate causes of which remain tobacco use, poor diet, mental health, physical inactivity and substance misuse. But with comprehensive strategies we are making a significant difference.

‘It is therefore plain to see that cutting the public health budget is a false economy and will undermine our ability to improve the public’s health and to keep the pressure off the NHS and social care.

‘Many councils will be forced to take tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back, or stopped altogether, to plug funding gaps.

‘It is vital that the Government uses the 2019 Spending Review to deliver truly sustainable funding for public health in local government.’

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