Services commissioned from community pharmacists are likely to face further cuts as local authorities reduce spending across public health, research from the King’s Fund has shown.
Smoking cessation services, substance misuse, and sexual health services commissioned by English councils are to be cut by up to 15%, according to the think tank’s analysis of data from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The research suggests local authorities will spend £2.52bn on public health services in 2017/18 compared with £2.6bn the previous year. In its figures, the King’s Fund ensured a like-for-like basis and researchers calculated that after inflation planned public health spending will be more than 5% lower in 2017/18 than it was in 2013/14.
The hardest hit service will be stop smoking schemes, which councils plan to cut by almost £16m this year — a 15% reduction.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) monitors all locally commissioned community pharmacy services through submissions from Local Pharmaceutical Committees, and it has recorded an increase in the number of public health services being decommissioned over this past year.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC, said: “Smoking cessation services are being the most affected.
“The squeeze on local government budgets is clearly having a detrimental impact on the provision of public health services to local communities, including those provided by pharmacy teams. At a time when the future sustainability of the NHS is going to be determined by the success or otherwise of initiatives to prevent people developing long-term conditions, this seems particularly short-sighted.”
Jonathan McShane, Chair of NHS England’s Pharmacy and Public Health Forum, said that smoking cessation services were not included in public health services that local authorities were “mandated” to provide, and he said some London boroughs had stopped commissioning the services altogether because of central government funding cuts.
“These cuts are incredibly short-term thinking and will do nothing to tap the huge potential that community pharmacy has to help relieve the pressure on the health service,” he said.
Although local authorities in England are planning to cut spending on many public health services, the King’s Fund research found that physical activity, children’s services, and health at work are among the areas that are set to see an increase in local authority funding despite the cuts.