London mayor urges government to reverse public health cuts

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on the government to reverse public health cuts ahead of the chancellor's autumn budget statement next week.

City Hall (Photo: iStock.com/Terraxplorer)
City Hall (Photo: iStock.com/Terraxplorer)

Addressing a London health board conference in city hall on Thursday Mr Khan said that without appropriate funding, tackling health inequalities in the capital would be ‘much, much harder’.

The London mayor said: ‘I’m calling on the government to use the upcoming budget to show its commitment to prevention by reversing public health cuts and increasing funding where necessary so that we have the resources we need to improve the health in our city.’

Mr Khan said he wanted ‘a fairer city where nobody’s health suffers because of who they are or where they live,’ adding that London currently suffers from ‘stark health inequalities’ that mean health can ‘vary massively from borough to borough, postcode to postcode’.

Public health cuts

Analysis by the Health Foundation released earlier this week showed a £700m real-terms reduction in public health funding between 2014/15 and 2019/20.

Meanwhile, a GPonline survey published in April found that the majority of GP partners said funding their practice received for public health services had dropped in the previous 12 months.

The think tank estimates that an additional £3.2bn a year is required to reverse the impact of government cuts to the public health grant.

The Health Foundation said that cuts to public health funding had come on top of cuts to local authority budgets, pointing to National Audit Office figures showing cuts of almost a third (32.6%) since 2010/11.

This has led to falls in spending on local services that play a key role in supporting people’s’ overall health and wellbeing, such as sexual health services and smoking cessation services, the Health Foundation warned.

Short-term thinking

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, called the cuts ‘short-sighted and irresponsible,’ adding that ‘the long-term consequences of eroding people’s health are likely to prove far more costly than the short-term savings made’.

‘While the health and social care secretary has rightly identified prevention as one of his three key priorities, the sustained cuts to the public health grant – a vital means of support for local authorities to tackle the causes of ill health – clearly run counter to this,’ she said.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has called for a significant rise in funding for general practice ahead of the autumn budget.

In a letter to chancellor Philip Hammond, Dr Nagpaul wrote: ‘The BMA has previously stated – along with other respected health think tanks such as the King’s Fund, Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust – that a funding increase of at least 4% year-on-year is required to tackle the ever-growing demand.'

He warned that the £20bn increase in NHS funding that the chancellor will confirm in his budget statement is 'not sufficient to meet the current needs of patients, and certainly falls short of delivering transformation within the NHS’.

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