Despite Conservative pledges to protect the NHS, Public Health spending will be cut by 3.8% each year for the next 5 years as a consequence of the Government's latest spending review.
Kent's Public Health services are managed by Kent CC with funding provided directly by Government grants. These significant cuts will have a major impact on the many prevention and early intervention services including the health visitor service, combating the nation's obesity problem and helping people to stop smoking. Much of the Public Health budget pays for NHS services or commissions health services from alternative providers.
"The Tories promised to protect the NHS but they have now brought in cuts to health spending which are short-sighted, unnecessary and frankly dangerous", said Rob Bird, Deputy Leader of the Kent Liberal Democrats. "They will put children and vulnerable people at greater risk and inevitably result in more work and more costs for GPs and hospitals."
KCC has recently been granted £5.7 million additional transition funding by the DCLG. At today's budget meeting at County Hall, the Liberal Democrat group proposed allocating £2.65 million of these funds to Public Health. This would have been used to maintain spending on the health visitor service, obesity and stop smoking campaigns. Regrettably, the Conservative group failed to support the proposal, despite the obvious benefits.
KCC's Public Health team will seek to minimise the impact of next year's £4 million spending cut by targeting services to those where the need is greatest, but this increases the risk that other residents are off the radar. Furthermore, the failure of KCC's Conservative Administration to sustain Public Health services will risk greater demand for Specialist Children's Services and other KCC services in future years when budgets will be even tighter.
Former Health Minister and Liberal Democrat Health spokesman, Norman Lamb MP commented:"The Conservative Government is gambling with the health of the nation and the very future of the NHS by pressing ahead with its plans to make completely irrational cuts to Public Health budgets. Simon Stevens has made it clear that the Five Year Forward View relies on a fair deal for public health and preventative services, but these cuts will simply place more pressure on acute and emergency services which are already at breaking point. It's important for people to know that this is a false economy which could have dangerous consequences."