William Eichler 14 March 2023

Public health grant of £3.5bn ‘insufficient’

Public health grant of £3.5bn ‘insufficient’ image
Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com.

The public health grant will be £3.5bn in total, according to the Government, but council leaders have criticised it as ‘insufficient’ in the face of ‘soaring demand’.

Minister for public health Neil O'Brien announced on Tuesday afternoon that the Government is increasing the public health grant to £3.529bn, providing each local authority with a 3.3% cash terms increase.

This represents an increase of £110m on this year's grant.

Responding to the announcement, Cllr David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, welcomed the ‘clarity’ but said that councils ‘still face significant challenges’.

Earlier this month local authority leaders and other organisations working in the public health sector called for clarity over the public health allocation due to take effect in April.

They warned the Government was risking ‘avoidable and unacceptable’ harm by delaying the announcement.

In his statement on Tuesday afternoon, Mr O'Brien said that as well as the 3.3% cash terms increase, the Government was also publishing indicative allocations for 2024-25, on the basis of a further 1.3% cash uplift which would take 2024-25 funding to £3.575bn.

‘This will provide every local authority with real-terms funding protection in each of the next two years,’ he said.

Responding to the statement, Cllr David Fothergill criticised the Government for what he described as ‘insufficient resources’.

‘As a country, we face an unavoidable choice; invest more in preventative action or keep paying the social and economic consequences of not doing so,’ he said.

‘At a time when NHS and social care pressures are greater than ever, vital sexual health, drug, alcohol and health visiting services cannot keep living a hand-to-mouth existence, with insufficient resources to meet this demand and late announcements about funding.

‘An increased focus on prevention through an uplift to the public health grant is needed, as well as a wider review of the adequacy of public health funding. This will support the Government’s wider aims by improving health outcomes, reducing health spending and putting the NHS on a better footing for the long term.’

Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, chair of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA), also criticised what he called a 'real-terms' cut.

'It is a relief that these allocations have finally been published but disappointing that public health teams had to wait right up until the new financial year to find out how much funding they will receive. Public health has been cut significantly in real-terms since 2015/16 and the most deprived places have often seen the biggest cuts,' he said.

'For the Government to deliver another real-terms cut, and likely another real-terms cut in the following year, is disappointing and risks the gap in health outcomes widening further. As the LGA have said, “significant challenges” remain for public health teams.'

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