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North London council plans reveal 60% public health cuts by 2018

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A north London council has laid out proposals to cut public health services including health visiting, drug and alcohol, and sexual health over the next three years by up to 60%.

The biggest reductions by Harrow Council are proposed for 2018-19, when local authorities could see the ring fence around their annual public health grant – which they receive from the government – removed.

“To overcome these ever-changing financial challenges, we are being pro-active… to find a long-term sustainable future for all our services”

Harrow Council

Council papers show plans to review its entire £3.2m budget for health visiting services from 2018-19.

A 60% cut to drug and alcohol services has also been put forward – reducing the budget from £2.48m in 2015-16 to £980,000 in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, nearly £700,000 of cuts have been proposed for staff that support non-statutory services.

The plans also reveal some savings could be made earlier, with sexual health services facing a 15% cut in 2017-18.

In the same year, a 93% reduction to its £0.3m smoking cessation services has been put forward.

Overall, the local authority has proposed cutting its public health budget from around £10.7m in 2015-16 to £5.9m by 2018-19.

The plans follow government “attacks” on its public health grant, according to Harrow Council, as well as being in anticipation of further reductions to the grant.

A spokesman for the council confirmed to Nursing Times that its plans for reducing its staffing budget did not include school nurses or those working in sexual health.

He said it reflected the local authority’s “move towards delivering statutory services only”.

“We are determined to work with local nurses to deliver the best public health services for our residents”

Harrow Council

Instead, staff working in services that “support wider determinants of health” – such as workplace health, long-term conditions and unemployment – would be in line for job cuts.

Despite council papers indicating the potential removal of its entire budget for health visiting services by 2018-19, the spokesman also told Nursing Times the local authority remained “committed to providing a quality health visiting service to families in the borough”.

Commissioning responsibility for health visiting services transferred to local authorities from the NHS in October.

Local authorities are mandated to ensure children receive at least five health visiting checks before the age of two and a half, but this legislation is due to expire by the end of March 2017.

The council spokesman said: “It seems that every day national government announces new cuts to our finances.

“From 2014 to 2018, Harrow Council has had £83m of cuts imposed on it already – this is over 50% of our controllable budget – with potentially further cuts to come when we receive more detail from government about the comprehensive spending review.”

He added: “To overcome these ever-changing financial challenges, we are being pro-active and working with all our communities and partners in the public sector to find a long-term sustainable future for all our services, including public health.

“We are determined to work with local nurses to deliver the best public health services for our residents,” he said. ”We only hope the government will continue to allow us to fund these valuable services properly and no final decisions will be made until 2018.”

Harrow Council’s cabinet will discuss the budget proposals later this week, with the draft budget for 2016-17 decided in February.

All future budgets will not be approved until November 2016 at the earliest, with health visiting proposals not decided upon until 2018.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Harrow should publish a full impact statement of the effects of these extraordinary cuts on employment, residents, especially the vulnerable and the local economy. There are likely to be diversity issues. Anyone who saw the dangers of transferring this service to local government will uncomfortably feel vindicated. Public Health had to go because had it stayed with commissioners it would make CCG's look too much like Labour's PCT's!

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  • Strange when Harrow rates are so expensive.

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