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90% of councils slashing smoking, sexual health, weight management services

Exclusive Nine out of ten councils have cut spending on sexual health, alcohol misuse and weight management services, a major Pulse investigation has revealed.

The investigation – which involved collecting full data from 80 local authorities through FOI requests – found that some areas are scrapping services altogether, with GPs warning that it will affect patient health.

In total, around nine in 10 councils have cut their public health budgets for 2018/19, after brutal cuts from central government.

The services cut by local authorities include:

In total, sexual health funding has been cut by 2% this year, and substance misuse by 3%. Smoking cessation funding stayed at the same level as 2017/18 – but this was following a 2.4% cut from the previous year.

The Treasury cut the public health grant for England by almost 10% (£531m) from 2015/16 to 2019/20. However, they have repeatedly said that frontline services will not be cut.

Local authorities contacted by Pulse said they were working hard to commission more effective services that the public actually wanted but that they were having to work with reduced funding.

GPs say that they are seeing the effects of the cuts already. Around half of the 620 GPs in England who responded to a Pulse survey say their practices are directly feeling the impact of the cuts.

Lincolnshire LMC medical director Dr Kieran Sharrock said they have lost vital obesity services locally.

‘It makes conversations between GPs and patients very difficult, “You say that I need to lose weight, but the only help you can give me is advice and a diet sheet printed off Google”,’ he said.

Dr Elliot Singer, a medical director at Londonwide LMCs, said the impact on GPs of recent cuts has been noticeable, particularly for weight management.

‘You try to refer someone for bariatric surgery but they can only have it if they’ve undergone 12 months of a weight management programme – but there isn’t one.’

South London GP Dr Alex Bobak, who has a special interest in smoking cessation, described the cuts as ‘appalling’.

‘Services are being cut wholesale. In general, councils are not providing the services and it’s a scandal.’

‘People are being left to stop smoking by themselves and they’re not stopping.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said they had a strong track record on public health.

‘Local authorities are best placed to make choices for their community, which is why we are investing more than £16 billion in local government public health services over the current spending period.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • I really don't see what the problem is. I have begin to tell my alcohol-dependant patients "Stop when the fun stops" whilst acknowledging the Senet Group as the originators of this phrase.If patients realised the wisdom of following this advice then the negative effects of "beer goggles" will become less prevalent and will have a valuable effect on reducing the risk of STIs. Cutting smoking cessation services will lead to an increase in lung cancers which in my experience facilitate weight loss quite often.

    We GPs need to step back and realise the powers that be have considered the bigger picture and have matters nicely under control.(/s).

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  • doctordog.

    Let’s face it, we all suspected this would happen.
    I just hope that when increased fatalities due to smoking, obesity, lack of mental health support and STDs occur, everyone remembers the cause.

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  • Absolutely fine. You have a horde of highly qualified NHS staff working at high pay packets as Project Managers instead of dealing working in their roles and though this is a necessary evil - more responsibility should be left with patients. If you are fat, we'll educate you but not going to feed with Orlistat - which in our survey of 200 patients who had taken the medicine - some for 10 years !! was only effective in 2 cases. Money is being squandered on projects which bring some public health benefit but would be better spent if given to Practices to deal with as patients are more inclined to work with Primary Care.

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