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‘False economy’ warning as councils plan £85m worth of cuts to public health spending

Funding for public health services including smoking cessation, sexual health and alcohol and drug clinics will be slashed by £85 million in 2017/18, analysis has revealed.

Stop smoking services will be cut by £16 million by councils across England, a 15% reduction year on year, according to the report from the King’s Fund.

Sexual health services have been cut by £30 million compared to last year, a 5% drop in funding and services to tackle drug misuse in adults will be slashed by more than £22 million, a 5.5% cut.

The analysis, based on Department of Communities and Local Government data, shows that councils in England are planning to spend £3.4 billion on public health services in 2017/18.

The King’s Fund estimated that, factoring in for inflation, planned public health spending is more than 5% less in 2017/18 than it was in 2013/14, saying that on a like-for-like basis councils will spend only £2.52 billion on public health services in 2017/18 compared to £2.60 billion the previous year.

David Buck, senior fellow in public health and inequalities at the think-tank, said: ‘Reducing spending on public health is short-sighted at the best of times.

‘But at a time when the rate of syphilis is at its highest level for 70 years, to cut spending on sexual health services is the falsest of false economies and is storing up problems for the future.

‘The Government must reverse these cuts and ensure councils get adequate resources to fund vital public health services.’

Pulse revealed in January that six major metropolitan and county councils were cutting smoking cessation budgets by hundreds of thousands of pounds. GPs warned that this will set smoking cessation back ’15 years’.

Health policy experts at the Universities of Liverpool and York warned earlier this year that recent cuts to public health budgets, including smoking cessation services, were a ‘false economy’ that will end up costing the NHS and the wider UK economy billions of pounds.