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Feeling the squeeze: The local impact of cuts to public health budgets in England

GP surgery, Derry, Northern Ireland
18 October 2016
Blood pressure examination

The BMA has consistently highlighted that the potential contribution of public health is being undermined by funding constraints, and that services and interventions vital for improving population health are not being implemented, or are being cut back, risking the future sustainability of the NHS.

Doctors have expressed particular concern that recent budget changes will result in public health services that are inadequate for meeting the needs of the local populations which they serve.

In this research briefing we explore whether changes to public health funding are reflective of local population health need, and assess the impact that public health funding cuts are having on the delivery of services locally.


Key findings

  1. Changes to public health spending in local areas do not reflect the needs of local populations. Many areas with poor health outcomes are seeing substantial cuts to funding for a range of key public health services.
  2. Budget reductions are leading to unacceptable variation in the quality and quantity of services available to the public. This is likely to have a detrimental impact on population health, increase future demand for treatment services, and risks widening health inequalities.



  1. Cuts to public health funding should be reversed, and sufficient funding made available to ensure that public health services can meet the health needs of local populations.
  2. Any new mechanism for funding public health services in England must be adequate and sustainable, and should be monitored for its impact on health inequalities.
  3. Common, minimum standards for the provision of public health services in England should be established, to address local variation in the quality and quantity. These standards should be monitored and maintained by an independent body.
  4. Any proposed changes to the funding of public health services locally should be clearly assessed for their potential impact on population health, and any new models of service provision routinely audited for their effectiveness and cost-benefit.
  5. There should be greater recognition of the evidence that prevention and early intervention is cost effective, and a renewed focus on maintaining access to cost-effective public health services that reduce future demand for healthcare.



Read the full research briefing, which explores the local impact of cuts to public health funding in England.

Download the briefing (PDF)


Further resources

A doctor on the frontline of public health funding cuts - blog by Sohail Bhatti

Help to quit goes up in smoke - BMA News feature

Worst hit areas lose public funding - BMA News story