Councils have seen a £700 million real terms reduction in public health funding between 2014/15 and 2020/21 – a fall of almost a quarter (23.5 per cent) per person. Lib Dem Councillors have hit out at the lack of investment in public health which risks embedding health inequalities further exposed by the pandemic.
York’s allocation of the Public Health grant has fallen from £8.4mil in 2016 to £8.1mil in 2021, having seen a very minor increase since 2019. The budgets include spending on children’s health services, health visitors, sexual health, drug and alcohol abuse schemes as well as spending on local outbreak management, contact tracing and responding to coronavirus.
Despite calls to comprehensively invest in public health after the Coronavirus outbreak, Government continues to fail to decentralize a system, which has proven that local approach is the most effective way in combating public health issues. Analysis shows that local authority public health funding is three to four times more cost-effective in improving health outcomes than money spent in the NHS.
In order to match the growth in overall NHS funding as part of the Long Term Plan and not create a two-tier system in health, the LGA estimates that Government should commit to increasing the public health grant in future years to at least £3.9 billion by 2024/25.
Councillor Carol Runciman, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, commented:
“Whilst at national level we have seen huge investment in programmes such as NHS Test and Trace, public health funding for local services continues to be woefully inadequate at a time when protecting and improving the public’s health has never been so important.
“Our local approach to contact tracing, community testing and outbreak control confirmed what we had known all along – local expertise and approach is the most effective way to combat the spread of the virus. Local public health teams must be at the forefront of our efforts to tackle health inequalities and the long term mental and physical health effects of Covid.
“The lack of investment means councils are falling behind increases in spending for the NHS, creating a two-tier local health system which is supposed to be moving towards greater integration.
“This year’s funding figures do not reflect the immense pressures on local public health services. If the Government was serious about learning the lessons from Covid-19, then they should be investing substantially in local public health now.”