Between 2013/2014 and 2016/2017, budgets for stop smoking services and interventions were cut by 36% according to an analysis published by the Labour Party.
The analysis of data from the House of Commons Library also concluded that sexual health promotion, prevention and advice services had been cut by 29%.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, described the “deep” cuts to public health services as “completely short-sighted” and said they should be reversed as part of the ‘NHS long term plan’.
“Ministers who boast of their commitment to prevention won’t be taken seriously whilst at the same time cutting vital services that support pregnant mothers, help people stop smoking or tackle sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse,” he said.
Public health funding is also expected to fall in the future, according to a report from think tank The King’s Fund, published on 27 November 2018.
It calculated that local authority spending per head on key prevention services is on track to fall by almost a quarter in real terms between 2014/2015 and 2019/2020 as a result of cuts to the public health grant and wider local authority budgets. This, it said, is despite “clear and strong evidence of the economic case for investing in health promotion and disease prevention”.
The King’s Fund report recommends that the government’s next spending review should restore public health grants to local authorities to at least the levels in place in 2015/2016, and move to multiâ€‘year funding settlements.
It also said that the government should “act now” to understand the impact of cuts to wider local government on population health.
A freedom of information request from The Pharmaceutical Journal in January 2018 revealed that almost a fifth of local authorities in England had decommissioned community pharmacy-led smoking cessation services in the past three years, and that a further 5% planned to decommission or reduce smoking cessation services in the next year.