The Health Foundation has criticised the latest public health grant allocation figures, which have been announced by the government.
The figures show a £45m cash increase in the public health grant for 2021–22, with the total grant standing at £3.324bn.
According to the Health Foundation, public health grant allocations have fallen in real terms from £4.2bn in 2015–16 to £3.3bn in 2021–22.
On a per head basis that equates to a 24% cut since initial allocations were made in 2015–16.
‘This year’s public health grant allocations provide only a small £45 million increase on last year,’ said senior fellow, David Finch.
‘This is a 24% cut – equivalent to £1bn – on a real term per capita basis compared to 2015/16. These allocations have come late, just before the start of the next financial year, making planning ahead even more difficult.
‘Local authority public health teams have a vital part to play in the national response to COVID-19, working alongside the NHS. The pandemic has shone a light on the essential work these teams do and reinforces the need for a properly funded, resilient local public health system,’ added Mr Finch.
‘In the longer term, public health funding is of crucial importance to improve health and address inequalities that have been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Looking ahead, it is important that, at a minimum, government restores the grant to 2015/16 levels by investing an extra £1 billion a year and then ensures that the grant keeps pace with growth in NHS England’s spend.’
Responding to the announcement, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, Cllr Ian Hudspeth added: ‘The publication of this year’s ringfenced public health grant means that councils can now plan ahead for providing vital services such as tackling childhood obesity, treating substance misuse and recruiting more health visitors and school nurses, which have endured funding reductions in recent years amid rising demand.
‘Tackling our health inequalities, which have been so starkly exposed during the pandemic, will require significant long-term investment in the public health services which can improve people’s health and wellbeing and reduce future pressure on the NHS.
‘To achieve this, public health funding should match the growth in overall NHS funding to at least £3.9bn by 2024/25.’
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