England’s public health grant allocation for 2022-23 has been dubbed ‘effectively a cut’ and ‘another blow’ to services by public health experts.
The 2.81% rise to council’s public health budgets, announced yesterday afternoon, brings total funding to 3.42bn in 2022-23, up by £93m from 2021-2022. However, experts are arguing this is a real-terms cut, as inflation rates currently stand at 5.4%.
The Government vowed to maintain public health funding in real terms at the autumn budget and spending review in October, but inflation was running at 2.9% at the time.
The public health grant is given to local authorities to fund preventative services, such as health visiting, drug and alcohol services, and sexual health clinics.
‘Another below to public health’
Responding to the funding announcement on Twitter, Alison Morton, chief executive at the Institute of Health Visiting, said the news was ‘not good’.
She continued: ‘With long-standing workforce shortages, rising levels of vulnerability and a backlog of babies, children and families missed in the pandemic, this is another blow for public health. Where is the public health recovery plan? Healthcare is more than the NHS.’
Professor Jim McManus, president at the Association of Directors of Public Health, agreed it would not be enough ‘given the ongoing pandemic pressures, service backlogs and increasing need’.
He continued: ‘There is an increasing dissonance between the government’s warm words on levelling up health and the investment it is willing to make. This tiny increase won’t hold back the tide of rising inflation, rising service pressures and ambitious policy plans.
The commitment of Directors of Public Health to create healthier places and reduce health inequalities is resolute, but it would seem, despite the deep inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, the Government’s has waned.’
However, Maggie Throup, the minister for vaccines and public health, said when announcing the grant that the funding maintains ‘the public health grant in real terms for the spending review period’.
She continued: ‘This will enable local authorities to continue to invest in prevention of ill health and essential frontline services like child health visits, drug treatment and sexual health services.’