Public health funding should be linked to increases in the NHS budget, a briefing published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests.
The think tank says that linking the two budgets will put public health on a more sustainable footing after five years of cuts that the report says have hit the most deprived communities hardest.It claims that the ten most deprived local authorities in England have seen £1 in every £7 cut from their public health budgets – compared to £1 in £46 for the ten least deprived councils.
The IPPR puts the total cuts to public health in England at £900m in real terms since 2014/15. As well as linking funding NHS budgets, the briefing calls for reform of the local government funding formula.
It argues that despite the greater public health needs in deprived communities such as Blackpool, Liverpool and Birmingham, councils serving the ten most deprived communities have borne nearly 15% of that figure. The poorest areas have lost around a third of their public health funding, compared to a one-fifth reduction for the least deprived areas.
The IPPR research fellow who analysed the data, Chris Thomas, said: ‘This means the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in our country has been put at risk – and puts unnecessary strain on the NHS. Government must ensure our health and wellbeing by investing in a fairer deal for local government.’
Cllr Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care said: ‘These findings are sadly not surprising and emphasise what we at Birmingham City Council, alongside many other local authorities, have been saying for years. Public health have been hit by cuts alongside other public sector services and it is the poorest and most vulnerable who have suffered the most under years of austerity.’
LGA community wellbeing board chairman Cllr Ian Hudspeth said: ‘All political parties need to commit to giving councils greater powers and funding to help improve the health of our population and relieve pressure on our overstretched health service.’
The MJ approached the councils that top the government’s least deprived list for comment but did not receive a response.