Government urged to sustainably fund public health

The County Councils Network is among a number of signatories to a new statement from Cancer Research UK, calling on the government to sustainably fund public health services.

With public health facing a funding crisis, Cancer Research UK is calling on the government to increase investment in public health to prevent ill health, reduce health inequalities, and support a sustainable health and social care system.

Despite the NHS Five Year Forward View arguing that ‘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’, the government has continued to cut the Public Health Grant year-on-year. Because of this, local authorities’ ability to provide the vital functions that prevent ill health are being severely compromised.

This financial year, every local authority has less to spend on public health than the year before. According to analysis by the Health Foundation, almost all local authority public health services faced cuts between 2014/15 and 2019/20. Local authorities have made efficiencies through better commissioning, but cuts are nevertheless impacting frontline prevention services.

The statement says the government must equip local authorities with adequate resources to provide vital public health functions. The government currently plans to phase out the Public Health Grant by 2020/21, after which they propose to fund public health via a 75 per cent business rates retention scheme. Whatever model is ultimately implemented, it must generate enough funding for local authorities to deliver their public health responsibilities, enable transparency and accountability, and be equitable so that areas with greater health needs receive proportional funding.

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