The Royal College of Nursing has warned that proposed cuts to public health funding and short-term decision making risked “storing up” serious problems across the NHS, ahead of next week’s budget.
On Wednesday, chancellor George Osborne is due to deliver his second budget of the year but the first since the Conservatives won a majority in the general election.
“It is important to continue warning that short term decision-making is already storing up serious problems for the future”
In a statement issued today, the RCN warned Mr Osborne against pushing ahead with recently announced plans to cut £200m from the public health budget.
The proposals, revealed in June, will have a severe impact not only on the public health services themselves but also on acute care, as patients become sicker from preventable or manageable conditions, said the college.
- Concern that £200m may be shaved off public health budgets
- Fears health visitors will be target in £200m public health cuts
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The stakes are extremely high for the entire care system in the UK over the next few years. It is important to continue warning that short term decision-making is already storing up serious problems for the future.
“Only last month, it was quietly announced that the government would be taking £200m from funds spent by local authorities on public health. This is not a side issue in terms of the NHS’s future – it is at the very core of what the NHS must do to survive,” she said.
“Issues like childhood obesity, smoking, drugs, alcohol and inactivity are not going to go away – they will get worse if they are not tackled now,” he said, revisiting a theme he highlighted in his keynote speech at last week’s RCN Congress in Bournemouth.
“The services may look expensive – but they are far, far cheaper than having a generation of young people suffering increasingly poor health,” said the RCN leader.
Dr Carter, who is due to step down at the end of the month, added that the NHS was also “trying to work with uncertainty about its workforce”.
“A large proportion of that workforce is made up of temporary staff, many from overseas, large numbers of whom may be forced to leave the country in the coming years,” he noted.
“Nurses are urging the government and MPs in the budget debate to heed the evidence for preventative health services and take a long term, strategic view on how to maintain a workforce and health services can survive for decades, not simply the next financial year,” he said.