Labour warn over ‘shortsighted’ cuts to sexual health and substance misuse services

Cuts to smoking cessation services, sexual healthcare and obesity services are “misguided”, Labour has said.

The party said that reductions in spending on public health in England are “shortsighted” and will put additional strain on the NHS.

It comes after it published new analysis on the amount of money spent on public health services between 2013/14 and 2016/17.

And it said that further cuts were expected between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Among Labour’s findings, obtained from the House of Commons Library, were:

  • Between 2013/14 and 2016/17, budgets for stop smoking services and interventions saw a 36% cut.
  • Spending reductions are set to reduce further between 2017/18 and 2018/19.
  • Sexual health promotion, prevention and advice services have received a 29% cut per head – down to just £1.23 in 2016/17 from £1.72 in 2013/14.
  • Between 2013/14 and 2016/17 specialist drug and alcohol misuse services for children and young people spending reduced by 25%, while expenditure for treatment for drug misuse in adults was cut by 21%.
  • Meanwhile, between 2013/14 and 2016/17 adult obesity service expenditure per head fell by 7%.

Labour said that the Government should reverse cuts to public health, arguing that the forthcoming NHS long-term plan will not be able to fully deliver for patients if spending cuts are not addressed.

Jonathan Ashworth (pictured), Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, said: “These deep cuts to public health services are completely shortsighted and will only lead to wider pressures on the NHS and adult social care services.

“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.

“Not only are these cuts completely misguided, they also shamefully mean some of the most vulnerable in society are failed again as they go without treatment and support.

“These latest cuts – part of a package of £1 billion worth of cuts to health services next year – must be reversed in the imminent NHS Long Term Plan.

“With health inequalities widening and life expectancy even reversing in some of the most deprived areas we should be expanding public health services not slashing them further.”

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils are having to carefully consider how best they can spend their public health funding, which has been reduced by £600 million from 2015/16 to 2019/20 by central government.

“We urge government to reverse these reductions and give local authorities more funding to further this cost-effective work.

“Without action, the health of individuals will continue to suffer, health inequalities will remain and the economic and social costs will increase to unsustainable levels.”

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “We know there’s more to do to improve our public health and reduce pressures on our NHS, which is why we have published a new vision for prevention and are investing over £16 billion in public health through local government.

“Smoking levels are at a record low, and our measures to tackle obesity, such as the Sugar Tax, are working.

“Labour completely failed to tackle obesity when they were in power, and it is clear their spending plans would leave less for our public services.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.