Nurses have called for public health funding to be reinstated following a string of cuts to budgets, warning the impact will negatively effect people’s health for years to come.
In England, in-year cuts of £200m in 2015-16 to local authorities – which now commission 0-19 services – plus further planned reductions for two more years will mean prevention services are cut, while only statutory programmes such as those for immunisation remain, they claimed.
“Child health and immunisations will be retained but provided by a reduced team of health visitors and school nurses”
They said the reductions were short-sighted as investing in public health delivered savings elsewhere in healthcare, because it reduced people’s need for NHS services by preventing illness and providing early interventions.
At the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress on Tuesday, union member Gwen Vardigans presented a motion on taking action against cuts to public health funding.
Ms Vardigans, from the RCN’s North Yorkshire branch, said: “The statutory obligations for child health and immunisations will be retained but provided by a reduced team of health visitors and school nurses.
“But preventative schemes [will be] cut back and initiatives such as weight loss, smoking cessation, sexual health, reductions in drug and alcohol consumption are seen as nice but not essential,” she told delegates at the conference in Glasgow.
“The effect of this is the NHS has to treat these people at enormous cost in the future,” she added.
“We know that in three, four, five, ten years there will be a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of people [from these funding cuts]”
Two former chairs of congress, Rod Thomson and Jason Warriner, both stepped up to the microphone to urge delegates to support the resolution.
Mr Warriner, also from the union’s public health forum, said: “The impact of funding cuts on public health will have a huge effect for years to come.”
“It’s too early to tell at the moment. But we know that in three, four, five, ten years there will be a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of people,” he added.
Members voted to support the motion for the RCN to “insist that the government reinstates adequate funding for public health”.
That this meeting of Congress asks RCN Council to insist that the government reinstates adequate funding for public health