‘Desperate situation’ faced by public health

In 2014, the Five Year Forward View said ‘… the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ — to which the chancellor has responded by cutting public health budgets. Twice — and with more on the way.

The impact of the cuts in areas such as drug misuse and alcohol was a major focus of this year’s BMA annual representative meeting.

In his keynote address, BMA council chair Mark Porter condemned the ‘shoddy sleight of hand’ by which the Government had circumvented its promise not to decrease NHS spending by placing public health outside the NHS.

He said smoking cessation and sexual health services were among those under threat, adding: ‘You can’t trade a public health policy for an e-cigarette and crossed fingers.’

At the ARM, doctors condemned the cuts in strong terms — for their impact on patients and on the workload of doctors as the opportunity to tackle the burden of  avoidable illness was squandered.

Cambridge GP Alice Hodkinson said the Government had ‘initially supported public health’ before embarking on the damaging cuts.

She added: ‘What will those cuts mean? Reductions in services, impacting on the poorest families… Public health cuts put pressure on the NHS. These cuts will impact most on the vulnerable.’

The threat posed by the reduction in public health budgets, now in the hands of local authorities, are very real, according to our research.

Cuts to Brighton and Hove’s sexual health service risk ‘increasing the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV’, its council says.

Meanwhile, cuts in Surrey are predicted to have an adverse effect on support for women suffering domestic abuse, while older and vulnerable adults in south London are likely to be lonelier and more isolated when its befriending service is cut, according to an impact report from Merton Council.

Full article at the BMA 24 June 2016