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Public health cuts ‘a false economy that will cost billions’, experts warn

Recent cuts to public health budgets are a ‘false economy’ that will end up costing an already overstretched NHS and the wider UK economy billions of pounds, health policy experts have warned.

Based on their findings, the team of experts calculated the Government’s recent £200m cut to public health budgets will cost around £1.6bn in the long run, because of the expected rise in teenage pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted infections, homelessness and suicide.

The researchers’ review of evidence on a range of public health policies showed that on average each £1 spent on public health returns an extra £14 on the investment.

Their study – covering nearly 30 different types of public health interventions in the UK as well as Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – found that national policies had an even greater return of investment, with each £1 spent yielding £27 in return.

The researchers, from the University of York and the University of Liverpool alongside local government public health leads, concluded: ‘The UK government’s “efficiency savings” thus represent a false economy which will generate many billions in additional future costs to the ailing NHS and wider UK economy.’

It comes as Pulse revealed GP run smoking cessation, weight loss and contraceptive services were being withdrawn because of swinging cuts to public health budgets.

J Epidemiol Comm Health 2017; available online 31 March