Health funding in Bedford cut by a quarter
"Investing in local public health is critical to levelling up"
Public health funding per head in Bedford has been cut by a quarter over six years in real terms, analysis reveals.
Health leaders and charities have urged the Government to increase spending after figures showed England’s public health grant has fallen by around £1 billion in real terms since 2015-16.
This central funding is given to local authorities to deliver vital preventative and treatment services, such as help to stop smoking, children’s health services and sexual health clinics.
Analysis by the Health Foundation shows Bedford was allocated £8.9 million through the public health grant for 2021-22 – equating to around £56 for every resident under the age of 75.
However, this was 25 per cent less than in 2015-16, when it received £74 per head in real terms.
A similar cut of 24 per cent per capita was made across England over this period, which the Health Foundation say is equivalent to a reduction of £1 billion in real terms.
The under-75 population is used for calculations as it is seen as a better representation of the people likely to be using these services.
The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) has written an open letter, backed by more than 50 charities and organisations, saying there “could not be a more prudent time” to increase local public health funding.
Jim McManus, ADPH interim president, said: “Investing in local public health is critical to levelling up.
“The costs of not doing so are clear – health and wellbeing will worsen further, health inequalities will grow and too much potential in our society and economy will remain untapped.”
Analysis by the Health Foundation found funding for stop smoking services and tobacco control has been cut by about a third – the greatest real-terms fall.
Funding for drug and alcohol services has been cut 17 per cent in real terms, while sexual health services have seen a real-terms fall of 14 per cent, with only child obesity services seeing an increase.
It found that more deprived areas have disproportionately borne the brunt of the cut, despite people in these areas generally having poorer health.
Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “As the country emerges from the biggest health crisis it has ever faced, the role of public health is as important as it’s ever been.
“While there is a clear need for further investment in the NHS, to aid recovery from the pandemic and tackle the backlog in care, this must not be at the expense of funding for public health.”
She added that the upcoming spending review presents an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate it is serious about levelling up health.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Government is supporting directors of public health and their teams to protect and improve public health and wellbeing by making over £10 billion available to local councils to address the wider costs and impacts of Covid-19.
“We have also increased the local authority public health grant to over £3.3 billion this year and allocated additional funding to tackle obesity and drug addiction.”