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Concerns new NHS pay offer risks public health cutbacks

Concerns new NHS pay offer risks public health cutbacks

Concerns have been raised around the potential impact an increased pay offer for NHS staff could have on public health services such as school nursing, health visiting and sexual health clinics.

Leaders within the sector warned these crucial services could be at ‘risk’ of cutbacks to help fund the newly proposed NHS pay offer for staff in England.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to councils to say they will be expected to use existing budgets in order to pay for the increases in NHS pay for staff within the community services they commission.

For NHS nurses in England, ministers have offered a one-off payment for 2022/23, worth between £1,655 and £3,789, and a 5% consolidated pay increase for 2023/24. The increases will soon be consulted on by health unions.

While the government has increased the local public health grant provided to councils by 3.2% this year.

But the LGA has warned that meeting these potential NHS pay demands for the tens of thousands of NHS staff working in council commissioned community health services in England would ‘far exceed’ the funding they have, and could therefore lead to service cuts.

Councils are therefore urging ministers to fund any NHS pay rise in full to avoid ‘already stretched’ community services being under new financial burdens.

The LGA added that its own recent analysis found local public health services, including sexual health support and health visiting, were experiencing a surge in demand but a decline in both funding and staffing levels.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘NHS pay rises cannot and should not be an additional burden on already pressured council public health budgets.

‘Public health services, such as for sexual health or school nurses, are crucial in helping to relieve the pressure on our health and care system but these unfunded pay increases mean they could face an uncertain future.’

He added: ‘Vital public health services run by local councils cannot continue to maximise their role at the heart of communities while continually having to make budget cuts or manage uncosted new burdens.

‘To ensure our vital services can continue supporting those in our communities who need it the most, the government should fund new NHS pay rises in full.’

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Institute of Health Visiting, Alison Morton, said health visiting services across England were ‘very concerned about the impacts of the currently unfunded NHS pay awards’.

She warned it seemed ‘impossible’ to meet the proposed NHS pay offers ‘without making cuts somewhere’.

‘At a time when we have widening health inequalities and more and more money is being sunk into costly late interventions, it defies all logic to cut services like health visiting and school nursing that can prevent, identify and treat problems before they reach crisis point,’ added Ms Morton.

When approached for comment, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) pointed to its media fact sheet related to NHS pay and strikes.

Within this, it states: ‘We are absolutely committed to ensuring the NHS has the funding it needs to deliver for patients.

‘There will be no impact on frontline services or quality of care that patients receive as a result of this offer.’

It added that there was 3.5% funding already available for pay in 2023/24 and that the DHSC would work with the Treasury to ‘resolve any new funding needs in the usual way’.

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