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Councils Accused of Raiding Public Health Budgets

March 28, 2014
Public Health

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has claimed that millions of pounds of ring-fenced public health funding is being diverted to pay for other services faced with budget cuts.

The claim comes as a result of a freedom of information request which received responses from 143 councils across England, which revealed that a third had decommissioned one service since being given responsibility for public health just over a year ago. Researchers highlighted reductions on spending on school nursing, fall services, dental public health and sexual health as examples.

Janet Atherton, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, feels it was inevitable that the pattern of public health spending changes over time: “Using this funding effectively will help councils and the health system more widely to manage increasing demand for high cost health and social care interventions. The pattern of spend within the public health grant should rightly change over time, by decommissioning services that are not achieving good outcomes and reinvesting in higher priority areas. Many of the case studies given in the BMJ article are examples of this happening in practice.”

Every local authority has received a letter from Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie explaining what is needed to ensure councils are using their ring-fenced budget appropriately. The investigation also found that of the 132 permanent public health director posts in England, 31 are currently vacant.

The Local Government Association has branded the report as ‘scaremongering.’ 

Read the BMJ’s full article here