A multi-million pound in-year public health budget cut will hit charities, not-for-profit firms and the NHS in Leeds, a health boss has warned.
The revelation comes after Leeds City Council was told by Government that it was facing its share of a £200million “non NHS” cut to public health budgets nationally, expected to cost the city around £2.8m.
Officials in Leeds are now searching for ways to claw back funds before the end of the financial year in April – and it appears the third sector and NHS services are in the firing line.
Speaking to the council’s health scrutiny board this week, the council’s director of public health Dr Ian Cameron said its public health work through charities and the NHS, which includes the likes of school nursing, children’s centres, sexual health work and smoking cessation, will be compromised.
Confirmation that Leeds, along with all local authorities in England, will face a 6.2 per cent cut to its public health budget is expected imminently.
Dr Cameron said: “It’s appalling to find that the council’s public health budget is being cut when a significant amount of that is actually being used to fund NHS services.”
He continued: “The idea that these cuts somehow don’t affect the NHS is a myth.”
Public health funding, which was transferred to local authorities from the NHS in 2013, also pays for services including suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention and drug, alcohol and weight loss support.
Dr Cameron said: “The third sector does a fantastic job in Leeds and the truth is they are going to be hit as part of this £2.8m – we are going to find that bad enough.
“Even worse is if this funding cut is going to be made recurrent – we don’t know that yet.”
He said he has “significant concerns particularly for the third sector” if the cut is made every year.
A 6.2 per cent reduction in all public health budgets will mean Leeds needs to find the largest saving in the county.
Once the method of the cut is confirmed, Dr Cameron intends to present a plan to find the savings to council leaders in the coming weeks.
Scrutiny board member Coun Eileen Taylor (Lab, Chapel Allerton) added: “This is just disastrous and no fault of your own. My main concern is for the third sector and those who depend on your budget.”
Government’s decision to cut public health budgets has been criticised by the likes of Macmillan Cancer Support, Diabetes UK and the Royal College of Midwives which stated the cuts will harm the nation’s health and the aim to prevent illness.
Last year the NHS Five Year Forward View document, lauded as a blueprint to overhaul the NHS, said the future sustainability of the NHS depended on a “radical upgrade in prevention and public health”.
IMPACT ON THE REGION
Leeds faces a cut of £2.8million – the largest financial cut in Yorkshire.
Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, Wakefield Council stands to lose £1.5m, Kirklees would lose £1.6m and Bradford £2.5m.
The total cut across the White Rose could amount to more than £20m, with cities such as Sheffield losing £2.1m and Hull having to cut £1.5m.
The national public health budget is £2.7billion.
When the cut was announced a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Difficult decisions need to be made right across government to reduce the deficit.”