What could GPs do with £95 million?'

How much fun is a regular diet of obesity, worsening sexual health and alcohol abuse?

National newspaper readers could probably answer that, because tabloids and broadsheets alike have been filled with revelations, including how the majority of us will become obese by 2050, STI diagnoses are rising and one in seven people taken to hospital for drinking too much was aged under 14.

Such tales are probably of little surprise to those running daily surgeries.

What is likely to be more concerning is how the public health problems of obesity, poor sexual health and alcohol abuse can be solved and who the public might point the finger of blame at for them?

Last week GP reported that the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-choice and Sexual Health Group said PCTs needed to pay GPs to carry out STI services.

And here's the rub...

This week we report the Healthcare Commission's findings that financial weakness is still the main reason for poor PCT performance. At the same time the Association of Directors of Public Health found that about £95 million of funding set aside to tackle obesity, sexual health and alcohol abuse had instead been used to pay off PCT financial deficits.

So, £95 million that could have been spent deploying GPs and arming them with swabs to improve public health was instead banked by PCTs to save then health secretary Patricia Hewitt's job. Or at least until she resigned shortly after balancing the books for the financial year 2006/7.

Neither Alan Johnson, Ms Hewitt's successor, nor prime minister Gordon Brown probably views the headlines about obesity, sexual health and alcohol abuse with much enthusiasm.

And whether they think the finger of blame should point their way is debateable.

In fact if you listen hard enough you can almost hear them thinking: 'If only those GPs would open longer, everything would be all right.'

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