Public health funds not fairly distributed, report finds

Public health funds not fairly distributed, report finds

The Commons Select Committee found that nearly one third of 152 local authorities currently receive funding that is more than 20% above or below what would be their fair share. Thirteen local authorities currently remain more than 20% below their target funding proportions. 

The report states that there are still unacceptable health inequalities across the country, for example healthy life expectancy for men ranges from 52.5 years to 70 years depending on where they live. 

“These inequalities make Public Health England’s support at a local level particularly important, but we are concerned that PHE does not have strong enough ways of influencing local authorities to ensure progress against all of its top public health priorities,” says Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee. 

She added: “Given how important it is to tackle the many wider causes of poor public health, PHE needs to influence departments more effectively and translate its own passion into action across Whitehall."

Responding to the report, Dr Iain Kennedy, British Medical Association public health medicine committee chair said: “Public health budgets are under extreme pressure and, as this report lays bare, too many areas are not receiving the funding they need. With local authorities under increasing financial pressure, public health budgets risk being raided to make up for funding shortfalls to other services. These pressures are creating a ‘perfect storm’ that could seriously compromise the health and wellbeing of local populations and are generating uncertainty for staff and services.

“It is vital the budget is protected, remains ring-fenced and that greater resource is invested so we can combat major public health challenges such as obesity and tobacco, alcohol and drug related harm.”

He added: “We are pleased that the report recognises the difficulties in recruitment that are created by local authorities offering terms and conditions below NHS rates, and the limitations on their ability to recognise previous NHS service. We therefore call on the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure public health specialists in local government maintain parity with their NHS colleagues.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England said: “This is a fair and balanced review by the Public Accounts Committee and we welcome their recognition of the good start we have made. We agree that there is more we can do and the committee’s recommendations will help guide us in our work with local government and the NHS to improve the public’s health. We will respond more fully in due course.”

By Jo Carlowe,

OnMedica, Friday 6 March 2015

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