Public health green paper published, but ‘buried’, says RCN

Plans include steps to tackle smoking, obesity and mental health issues

Plans include steps to tackle smoking, obesity and mental health issues

Smoking cessation is one of the green paper's proposals. Picture: Alamy

Proposals to tackle the causes of preventable ill health in England have been published by the government.

The green paper outlines a range of proposals, including pledging to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16 and an ambition for England to go smoke-free by 2030.

However, the RCN has accused the government of trying to 'bury the paper in the dying days’ of the current administration.

Government proposals

Selling energy drinks to under-16s
would also be banned Picture: Alamy

Advancing our Health: Prevention in the 2020s, published on Monday by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office, proposes a series of steps to help tackle future health needs, including:

  • All smokers admitted to hospital will be offered support to stop smoking.
  • The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme will be doubled.
  • Alcohol care teams are to be established in more areas.
  • Measures taken to help shift the health system away from simply treating illness, and towards preventing health problems.
  • Publishing chapter three of the childhood obesity strategy.
  • Launching a ‘mental health prevention’ package.
  • Setting out a new vaccination strategy.

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan warned that the plans start at a disadvantage, citing research by the Health Foundation that suggests a 25% cut in public health spending per person by 2020-21.

Earning faith

'Despite prevention being one of the health secretary’s three key priorities, we’ve been waiting some time for these plans, which appear to have been buried in the dying days of the current government,' she said.

'One way to earn the faith of healthcare professionals would be to urgently pledge to restore cuts to the public health grant which local authorities rely on to deliver essential preventative services such as sexual health and smoking cessation services. 

'In addition, the community nursing workforce is unprepared with widespread vacancies and staffing shortages.'

Reduce salt and review sleep 

Other proposals include reducing salt intake by 7g a day, reviewing the evidence on sleep and health with a view to 'informing the case for clear national guidance on the daily recommended hours of sleep', and commissioning an evidence-based review of the NHS Health Checks programme.

A consultation on the green paper runs until October 14, with the government's response expected by next spring.

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