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Cuts a huge step back for public health

KENNEDY: The cuts will have a ‘damaging impact on people’s health and well-being'

Doctors have warned of a ‘huge step back’ in public health after research revealed big cuts to sexual health, quit-smoking and substance-abuse services.

The reductions were identified in King’s Fund analysis of financial figures from the local authorities, which took over the services from the NHS in 2013.

The think tank’s study shows a 5 per cent drop in planned expenditure in 2017/18 compared with 2013/14.

Planned expenditure on some services has fallen even further. Stop-smoking services have been cut by 15 per cent; support for drug addicts has dropped by 5.5 per cent.

Sexual health services have been reduced by 10 per cent over the past four years – despite significant rises in sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis and gonorrhoea.

BMA public health committee chair Iain Kennedy said such cuts signified ‘a huge step backwards for public health’.

The cuts will have a ‘damaging impact on people’s health and well-being, inevitably costing the NHS far more in the long term’, he added.

‘Public health services are more vital than ever in delivering preventive care.’

A third of Britons are projected to be obese by 2030 and smoking accounts for around 100,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Dr Kennedy added: ‘We have seen successive governments fail to deliver a sustainable, long-term plan to improve public health.

‘The Government must ensure public health receives the funding it desperately needs, alongside work to improve the provision of sexual health services, tighten regulation of the food and soft drinks industry, introduce a minimum unit price on alcohol and expand support for people to quit smoking.’

King’s Fund senior fellow in public health and inequalities David Buck said: ‘These planned cuts in services are the result of central Government funding cuts that are increasingly forcing councils to make difficult choices about which services they fund.’

He added: ‘Reducing spending on public health is shortsighted at the best of times. The Government must reverse these cuts and ensure councils get adequate resources to fund vital public health services.’

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