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Cuts to weight management, sex health and addiction services

03 May 2018 08:31

Ninety percent of councils have cut funding for weight management, sexual health and addiction services

Ninety percent of councils have cut funding for weight management, sexual health and addiction services

Ninety percent of councils have cut funding for weight management, sexual health and addiction services in a bid to reduce spending, new research has revealed.

Some areas are completely scrapping the services, a survey of 80 councils found.

Extra strain on NHS

GPs have warned that cutting these services will put a greater strain on the NHS in the long term as it tries to deal with growing numbers of obesity and addiction-related illnesses.

The public health grant for England was cut by approximately 10% between 2015/2016 and 2019/2020.

Drug and alcohol treatment services have been one of the biggest casualties, with 87% of councils cutting funding, followed by sexual health at 83% and stop smoking services at 79%.

Some councils have cut weight management completely, meaning patients end up needing surgical intervention because preventative strategies are unavailable.

The research found that sexual health funding has been cut by an average of 2% across the country this year, following a 5% cut in 2017.

Funding for substance misuse has been cut by an extra 3% this year after already undergoing a 6% cut last year.

Quit smoking services remained the same as 2017/2018 levels but suffered a 17.5% cut in the previous financial year.

Costs in the long run

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said: "Practices are all too often left picking up the pieces and patients are losing the option of access to important services in their area.

"Ultimately these short-sighted cuts will cost the NHS in the long run as we don't properly invest in prevention and health promotion."

Other strategies to fall casualty to the cuts are services for the elderly - the research team cited the example of Essex County Council's decision to close its falls prevention service at a saving of £2.2 million annually.

Over 620 GPs across the country revealed in a survey that they were already bearing the brunt of these cuts.

Many complained of having to see patients repeatedly to prescribe anti-smoking medication and oral contraceptives, taking up already limited appointment time.

In some parts of the country, doctors treating obese patients cannot refer them for bariatric surgery unless they have undergone 12 months of weight management, but all nearby diet classes have closed.

The report's authors highlighted the case of Rotherham's award-winning obesity clinic, which lost its funding last summer after eight years when the local council withdrew funding.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said local authorities are best placed to make decisions for their community and that the Government is investing £16 billion in public health over the current spending period.

"We have a strong track record on public health - smoking levels are at an all-time low, more people than ever are being tested for sexually transmitted infections and the number of people infected continues to fall," he said.