Wigan public health funding per head cut by almost a quarter over six years

Public health funding per head in Wigan has been cut by almost a quarter over six years in real terms.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:30 pm

Public health funding per head in Wigan has been cut by almost a quarter over six years in real terms.

The analysis of the figures, prompted a withering attack on the Government from local MP Yvonne Fovargue who said it made a mockery of the “levelling up pledge.”

Health leaders and charities have urged the Government to increase spending after figures showed England’s public health grant has fallen by around £1bn in real terms since 2015-16.

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Yvonne Fovargue criticised the Government

This central funding is given to local authorities to deliver vital preventative and treatment services, such as help to stop smoking, children’s health services and sexual health clinics.

Analysis by the Health Foundation shows Wigan was allocated £26.3m through the public health grant for 2021-22 – equating to around £87 for every resident under the age of 75.

However, this was 22 per cent less than in 2015-16, when it received £112 per head in real terms.

Ms Fovargue said: “I know the public health team in Wigan have worked so hard to keep us all safe during the pandemic, and I’m grateful to them for everything they have done. It beggars belief that despite their hard work, the services they run have experienced such devastating cuts.

“The words ‘Levelling Up’ will mean nothing unless the Government invests in public health and prevention, which is key to improving people’s lives and keeping them healthy for longer.”

A slightly larger cut of 24 per cent per capita was made across England over this period, which the Health Foundation say is equivalent to a reduction of £1bn in real terms.

The under-75 population is used for calculations as it is seen as a better representation of the people likely to be using these services.

Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “In response to Central Government Public Health grant reductions over the years, Wigan Council has consistently worked to provide additional investment into prevention and population health services to address the government shortfall.

“This has enabled significant inroads to be made in recent years in increasing health life expectancy rates in the borough, but there is recognition that much more needs to be done to address health inequalities, which have and will continue to be exacerbated by the impacts of the pandemic.

“We have worked innovatively with communities, providers and partners to develop new models of support which addresses key public health and health improvement measures.

“We have long established programmes in place – our Communities in Charge of Alcohol programme, Youth and Adult Health Champions, Community Link Workers, Homeless Health - as well as forming strong partnerships with primary and secondary care services, all of which work alongside our commissioned support services to enhance our public health offer, addressing health needs and inequalities.

“As we ‘build back better’ at this stage of the pandemic, now more than ever, additional investment will be required across public health and population health services in line with priorities to build both a resilient health protection system and to support recovery from Covid.”

The Association of Directors of Public Health has written an open letter, backed by more than 50 charities and organisations, saying there “could not be a more prudent time” to increase local public health funding.

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “As the country emerges from the biggest health crisis it has ever faced, the role of public health is as important as it’s ever been.

“While there is a clear need for further investment in the NHS, to aid recovery from the pandemic and tackle the backlog in care, this must not be at the expense of funding for public health.”

She added that the upcoming spending review presents an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate it is serious about levelling up health.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Government is supporting directors of public health and their teams to protect and improve public health and wellbeing by making over £10bn available to local councils to address the wider costs and impacts of Covid-19.

“We have also increased the local authority public health grant to over £3.3bn this year and allocated additional funding to tackle obesity and drug addiction.”

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