Councillors have expressed concerns over the impact that the delay in announcing councils’ public health funding allocation could have on vital services such as sexual health, outbreak control and drug and alcohol treatment, warning that this may lead to service interruptions and cuts.
Ministers are yet to announce public health funding plans for 2022/23 leading to uncertainty and concern that crucial services, which received non-recurrent funding for this year, could be at risk. This includes substance misuse and particularly enhanced drug treatment services for offenders, sexual health service provision for HIV prevention, some aspects of child public health provision and outbreak management.
Lack of certainty over funding for Covid-related services is particular concerning. No cash has been announced beyond March for such services as contact tracing, encouraging vaccine uptake, and outbreak management in schools, care homes and community settings, which makes longer term planning almost impossible.
Adding to this is also the refusal to commit to increasing the grant in line with inflation. This means that additional pressures are passed on to service providers whose costs have significantly increased over the pandemic.
York’s allocation of the Public Health grant has fallen since 2015, with the total confirmed cash reduction amounting to £1.845m till 2020. Even despite the pandemic, 2021 allocation of £8.1million still lags behind the £8.4million grant from 2015.
Councillor Carol Runciman has written to the Health Secretary urging for clarity regarding the longer term funding of these vital services.
Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, commented:
“Ministers are once again leaving councils in the dark over the future of the delivery of crucial services. As demand continues to rise, so does the pressure on services and risk of reductions due to cuts.
“Even if this year’s grant is maintained, following a 24% real terms cut since 2015, it will lead to significant pressures and possible reductions in services as costs and demand continues to skyrocket.
“Local public health teams are and will be at the forefront of our efforts to tackle health inequalities and the long term mental and physical health effects of Covid. Government’s sporadic approach to the future of such vital services simply adds additional and avoidable risk to our economic, health and pandemic recovery.
“These funding figures do not reflect the immense pressures on local public health services. It is truly unfathomable that this Government continues to fail to prioritise public health funding during a major public health crisis.”