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King's Fund warning over budget cuts in sexual health and smoking cessation

Public health budget cuts affecting services such as sexual health and stop-smoking services, says think tank.
nurse gives stop-smoking advice

Public health budgets are being slashed by 85 million affecting areas such as sexual health and stop-smoking services, a think tank warns.

Analysis by the King's Fund says central government cuts have forced local authorities to reduce planned spending. While some services will be protected, such as exercise promotion and some children's services, most are facing cuts, it said.

Rising rates of STIs

Spending on sexual health services, for example, has fallen by 64 million, or by 10% over the past four years. This is despite a rise in some sexually transmitted infections including syphilis and gonorrhoea.

Public health budgets are being slashed by £85 million – affecting areas such as sexual health and stop-smoking services, a think tank warns.


Stop-smoking services will suffer from spending cuts, says the King's Fund   Picture: SPL

Analysis by the King's Fund says central government cuts have forced local authorities to reduce planned spending. While some services will be protected, such as exercise promotion and some children's services, most are facing cuts, it said.

Rising rates of STIs

Spending on sexual health services, for example, has fallen by £64 million, or by 10% over the past four years. This is despite a rise in some sexually transmitted infections including syphilis and gonorrhoea.

Services will be cut by £30 million compared to last year, which amounts to a 5% cut.

Tackling drugs misuse in adults will face a 5.5% cut, while stop-smoking services will fall by almost £16 million, a 15% cut, the data showed.

The King's Fund said many of these services have already had to cope with years of falling budgets.

Storing up problems

Commenting on the report, RCN head of nursing Wendy Preston said the government is storing up problems for the future.

'Clinics led by nurses are extremely successful at promoting sexual health, helping people to give up smoking or overcome drink and drug abuse – cutting them back is a false economy.

“The evidence shows that investment in prevention and intervention services works for patients and gives better value to taxpayers. The removal of them piles pressure on to expensive acute and community services.

Clinics are struggling

“People were already struggling to access sexual health services, leading to concerns about further transmission, and the reduction is funding will do nothing to address that. Overstretched clinics, like elsewhere in the NHS, are struggling to recruit and retain nursing staff too.'
 
Based on department for communities and local government data and like-for-like analysis, the King's Fund report shows that councils in England will spend £2.52 billion on public health services in 2017-18 compared to £2.6 billion the previous year.

The King's Fund said that after adjustments, planned public health spending is more than 5% down since 2013-14.

Background of cuts

It said the reductions follow government cuts in public health funding of at least £600 million by 2020-21, on top of £200 million already cut from the 2015-16 budget.

Figures out last month from Public Health England showed the number of cases of syphilis have reached the highest level since 1949. In 2016, there were 5,920 syphilis diagnoses – an increase of 12% on the previous year and a 97% rise since 2012.

'Government is investing'

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government will be investing more than £16 billion in local government public health services.

The official stated: 'We have shown we are willing to take tough action to protect the public's health – introducing standardised packaging of cigarettes, a soft drinks industry levy and a world-leading childhood obesity plan.'


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