UK Politics

Chancellor urged not to cut vital health fund

An overweight child can't do up his trousers Image copyright Thinkstock / Zurijeta

Vital health services in England including stop smoking, obesity and sexual health clinics are at risk, experts are warning.

Earlier this year the Chancellor unveiled plans to cut the £2.8bn public health budget by £200m from January.

The pot is held by councils so is not covered by the government's promise to protect the health service.

But doctors, nurses and other senior health officials say the money is vital to relieving pressure on the wider NHS.

A total of 11 groups, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Royal College of Nursing, NHS Confederation and Faculty of Public Health, have put their names to a letter to George Osborne asking him to reconsider the plans.

The letter warned raiding the funds would simply cause greater ill-health and inequality in the population.

'Blighting people's lives'

It also pointed out that the case put by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens for extra money ahead of the election - he asked for an extra £8bn a year in return for £22bn of efficiency savings by 2020 - included making gains from improvements in people's health.

It added: "We urge you to consider very seriously the position we have outlined, to reverse these cuts in your forthcoming spending review and give a clear commitment that no further cuts will be made to public health budgets in future years."

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The Chancellor is due to set out his spending plans for this Parliament in November.

Prof John Ashton, of the Faculty of Public of Health, said: "The legacy of a decision to cut the public health grant will be major further burdens on the health service within the foreseeable future.

"Avoidable ill health, heart disease, sexual health problems, unplanned pregnancies - these are the kind of things which are being affected by this irrational cut to funding."

The cost of being unhealthy

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Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, agreed, saying: "There is an unprecedented consensus that we can only address the problems facing the NHS if we invest in the future of our nation's health by helping people to stay well.

"Open any report from any director of public health in any part of the country and you can see health inequalities and poor health putting pressure on NHS services and blighting people's lives.

"We need the upcoming spending review to protect public health budgets."

A government spokesman said the NHS was a "priority" for investment - as would be shown by the extra funds to be announced in the spending review.

But he added: "Difficult decisions need to be made across government to reduce the deficit and ensure the sustainability of our public services."

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