Warning over £1.5m cut to health funding

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Services to keep the district’s population healthy face a funding cut of at least six per cent this year.

Public health functions including stop smoking services, sexual health and school nurses will be hammered with a cut of around £1.5m.

Wakefield Council, which took over public health responsibilities under NHS reforms by the government, will have to make the savings from funds being transferred to it to fund the services.

A report to the council’s Caring for our People overview and scrutiny committee said the funding reduction for Wakefield district could be around 6.2 per cent.

It said: “Public Health services include, amongst other things school nurses, smoking cessation services, sexual health services, drugs and alcohol services, weight management, and NHS Health checks etc.

“It is anticipated that all aspects of the budget will be reviewed for potential savings.”

The cut is part of a £200m nation-wide reduction in public health funding in the current financial year.

But the government has come up with few policy initiatives to help councils make the savings, the report said.

And further cuts to public health funding, which is not ring-fenced as part of the NHS budget, could be made in the government’s autumn spending review.

The report said: “Meanwhile, the chancellor’s decision to cut local authority public health budgets by £200m sends a worrying signal that public health funding, which lies outside the NHS ring-fence, may be vulnerable to further cuts.”

Despite the proportion of elderly people rising and a growing need to tackle long term-health conditions, both councils and the NHS are facing long-term budget cuts under the Conservatives.

The council report points out that preventative health measures are needed to make the NHS and the country’s wider economy sustainable.

But the report added: “The autumn spending review will provide a litmus test of whether the government is serious about its commitment to prevention.”