Public health directors voice cuts concerns

Directors of public healthMore than 70 per cent of directors of public health say that drug and alcohol services in their area are likely to be reduced in 2016-17, according to a survey by their membership body, the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH).

ADPH members were asked about the likely impact of the government’s £200m cut in its public health grants to local authorities (DDN, September 2015, page 4). None of the respondents, however, said they expected that the cuts would mean drug or alcohol services being completely decommissioned.

Overall, 78 per cent of directors of public health said that the reduced funding would ‘have a detrimental impact on health’ in their area, with all services likely to suffer reductions next year. The cuts are a further blow in the context of ‘wider local authority cuts and NHS financial difficulties’, says ADPH, with 75 per cent of directors saying there would be an increase in health inequalities.

More than 90 per cent of the directors stated that they were ‘centrally involved’ in any decisions about cuts themselves, with the criteria a combination of ‘politics, statutory requirements, evidence, need and pragmatism’. Almost 60 per cent of respondents also said they expected to lose staff both this financial year and next.

‘Devolving public health to local government was a positive step, and councils have embraced these new responsibilities,’ said the Local Government Association’s (LGA) community wellbeing spokesperson, Cllr Izzi Seccombe. ‘However, as ADPH’s analysis shows, the significant cuts to public health grants will have a major impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils. These include combating the nation’s obesity problem, helping people to stop smoking and tackling alcohol and drug abuse.

‘Given that much of councils’ public health budget goes to pay for NHS services like sexual health, public health nursing, drug and alcohol treatment and health checks, these are cuts to the NHS in all but name. And it will put further pressure on other NHS services.’