William Eichler 24 June 2022

Local government austerity linked to poor health

Local government austerity linked to poor health image
Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.com.

Local authority cuts have been a significant driver of poor health outcomes at the local level, according to new research.

Undertaken by the University of Manchester, the research revealed that a 1% cut in per capita total service expenditure was associated with a 0.1% increase in multimorbidity – the prevalence of people with two or more chronic conditions.

The researchers found no association between public health expenditure and health related quality of life. However, they did discover that a 1% cut in adult social care expenditure was associated with a 0.01% decrease in average health-related quality of life.

All of the 147 English local authorities in the study experienced real spending cuts between 2009 and 2018, varying from 42% in Barking and Dagenham to 0.3% in Sefton. The average total spending cut was 22%, which according to the researchers would suggest an average 2.2 percentage point increase in multimorbidity in England over the period.

In equivalent terms, social care expenditure was £416 per person in 2011/12 and £398 in 2017/18.

The study’s author, Dr Jonathan Stokes, a research fellow from The University of Manchester, said: ‘Recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that spending will still be substantially less for local government in 2024/25 than in 2010.

‘So some local authorities might still have to cut services over the next few years. We show that can have worrying implications on health and related quality of life, particularly for the poorest areas and people who have more reliance on publicly funded services.

‘Not only does austerity have implications on current health, it could very well decrease population resilience for future pandemics or other shocks.

‘For example, other studies have shown mortality was higher for Covid-19 for those with co-morbidities. The decade of austerity prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated multimorbidity increases, therefore, might have worsened the population effects.’

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