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Cuts to the public health budget condemned as short sighted by nurses

RCN council to insist that the government reinstates adequate funding for public health
Gwen Vardigans

Cuts to the public health budget have been condemned as short sighted and illogical by nurses who have called on the government to do more to prevent ill health.

Delegates at RCN congress overwhelmingly supported a resolution asking council to insist that the government reinstates adequate funding for public health.

Speaking in the main hall at Glasgow’s SECC today (21 June), Gwen Vardigans said only 4% of the NHS budget is spent on prevention compared to the 70% which is spent on long-term, often preventable, conditions.

‘Spending on public health is the best value of public money,’ said Ms Vardigans of RCN North Yorkshire branch. ‘We should be funding more and spending more on public health, not less.’

Local authority control

Following the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act in 2013, the government devolved the responsibility for public health to local authority control in

Cuts to the public health budget have been condemned as short sighted and illogical by nurses who have called on the government to do more to prevent ill health.

Delegates at RCN congress overwhelmingly supported a resolution asking council to insist that the government reinstates adequate funding for public health.

Speaking in the main hall at Glasgow’s SECC today (21 June), Gwen Vardigans said only 4% of the NHS budget is spent on prevention compared to the 70% which is spent on long-term, often preventable, conditions.

‘Spending on public health is the best value of public money,’ said Ms Vardigans of RCN North Yorkshire branch. ‘We should be funding more and spending more on public health, not less.’

Local authority control

Following the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act in 2013, the government devolved the responsibility for public health to local authority control in England, alongside the budget for public health related services.

In February, chancellor George Osborne announced that allocations for the next year’s public health budgets in England would be reduced by an average of 3.9% every year in real terms until 2020.

This means that in 2016/17 there will be £77 million less than 2015/16, and the following year will see a further cut of £84 million to £3.3 billion. This is on top of a £200 million cut announced in June last year.

Stealth cuts

‘If the government had cut £200 million straight from the NHS, it would have been front page news and there would have been howls of public protest,’ Ms Vardigans told nurses after proposing the congress motion.

‘With the subsequent rise in ill health that the NHS will have to cope with, that’s effectively what they have done, but they have done it by stealth.

‘Prevention is at the heart of Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward View,’ she added. ‘To cut the public health budget is short sighted, illogical and a false economy.’

Huge impact

Backing the motion, RCN public health nursing forum chair Jason Warriner said the funding cuts will have a huge impact in years to come.

‘Public health is an invest to save concept. We are not a soft service part of the NHS and health care, we are a strong part of it and we need congress’s commitment,’ he said.

‘Put the money into public health services now and it will save money in the future. It’s about prevention and managing what we can now.’

The motion was carried overwhelmingly, with just one vote against and two abstentions.

The debate took place in the same week as the RCN warned that aggressive public health cuts are putting patients at risk following a survey of its members.

 

Further information:

RCN congress public health funding debate

 

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