The government’s proposed £200m cut to England’s public health funding risks holding back the growth of “cost-effective” healthy living schemes provided by community pharmacies and may increase demands on under-pressure NHS and social care services, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English Pharmacy Board warns.
The board says it is “strongly opposed” to the cut, which was the subject of a government consultation in July 2015, and calls for local authorities’ public health funds to be protected against future reductions.
Board chair Sandra Gidley, a community pharmacist, says services to tackle obesity, poor diet, smoking and alcohol misuse would be “severely impacted” if the proposed reduction went ahead.
The government is seeking to reduce public health grants to local authorities for 2015–2016 as part of wider action to reduce the deficit. The consultation proposes either a flat 6.2% reduction in all authorities’ allocations or an area-by-area approach taking into account local circumstances.
Gidley says the board has heard evidence suggesting that the proposed cut is “already preventing” the launch of new Healthy Living Pharmacy schemes, which are commissioned by local authorities’ public health teams. “We want to see funding for public health provision reinforced to support existing schemes and enable the desired expansion of this successful and cost-effective model of integrated primary care provision to progress,” says Gidley.
She adds that any loss of public health services would be “highly likely” to increase the number of people with long-term conditions, adding further pressure on the NHS and social care.
“We also believe the proposed grant reduction completely contradicts the public health improvement vision set out in NHS England’s ‘Five year forward view’ and that disinvestment will lead to a long-term increase in NHS costs,” she says.
A Department of Health spokesperson says: “Diffic
ult decisions need to be made right across government to reduce the deficit and ensure the sustainability of our public services.
hat’s why we have been consult
ing on how best to deliver these savings in a way that minimises any impact on services. We are now considering the responses.”
More than 1,000 Healthy Living Pharmacies in England are commissioned to provide services that improve local people’s health, reduce health inequalities and promote healthy behaviour, while liaising with other health and social care professionals. These services include alcohol brief interventions, emergency contraception, flu vaccination and NHS Health Checks.