BLOG: “We need to invest in tackling health inequalities”


With yesterday’s announcement of the public health grant, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care Cllr Frazer Lake explains how those funds will be used – and that it’s far too late to hear about Liverpool’s allocation so close to the new financial year.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about the Council’s finances and the management of the budget. One of the key elements in how we support residents and their health is the Public Health Grant.

These funds are awarded each year by the Government (through the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC)) to local authorities and support both Council and NHS public health activities.

In recent years it has been used to combat health challenges that have arisen from the pandemic – but the majority are being ‘shielded’ (set aside) for preventative health measures as these have proven to be the least expensive options available.

A key goal for any public health team is to help more people live longer, healthier lives – and so the majority of these funds are spent on services that support all of our communities and prevent them from falling into poor health develop.

The grant will be used for services such as health visitors, school nurses, community smoking cessation services, NHS health screening, sexual health services, infection control, addiction services, wellness activities (and much more!).

However, there is an ongoing trend towards reducing investment (divestment) when it comes to maintaining and improving people’s health.

This approach defies all evidence – as research shows that every extra year of ‘good health’ achieved through prevention costs £3,800. This is around four times less than the equivalent year of ‘good health’ provided by NHS treatment or care alone.

For over a decade, local authorities have experienced sustained cuts in funding – which has impacted our ability to provide, implement and scale up public health interventions, and the uncertainty about public health grants makes an already bad situation even worse.

This year, Liverpool have received just over £48m – a 3.26% year-on-year increase.

This is obviously good news; However, the benchmark for 2024/25 is 1.3% – which will be very challenging for the city.

Annually waiting for our allocation can create real difficulties in planning, implementing and evaluating activities.

Most funding streams are confirmed around December, but our Public Health team has had to wait until now (two weeks into the new fiscal year) to find out what we have available to support residents – and once again, it’s far too little. way too late.

Not all public health interventions have the same impact, and the team also needs time to reflect on the evidence and priorities related to different services to understand which services offer the best value and impact.

It has become clear that opportunities for prevention or early detection are being missed, and failure to invest in preventive measures means existing health outcomes are deteriorating.

Reducing health inequalities (the gap between the healthiest and the unhealthy) is also a major challenge – as these have indeed been widening in recent years and are being felt more in our most disadvantaged areas.

The saying “prevention is better than cure” is really true – helping someone to quit smoking now not only improves their health in the here and now, but can prevent them from developing longer-term health problems or receiving a devastating cancer diagnosis in the future.

Public health may not always be valued as much as hospitals or primary care, but the reality is that if we are to have healthier and more resilient communities (and therefore stronger local economies), we need to invest in tackling health inequalities.

A key commitment in our council plan is to do this — but without the appropriate funding, it’s difficult for the Public Health team (and other similar teams across the country) to carry out this essential work and help people live happier lives . a healthier and more independent life.”

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