SCROOGE: Osborne’s formula could cut health funding by £7m

SCROOGE: George Osborne
SCROOGE: George Osborne

Blackpool could lose more than a third of its public health budget if government changes to the funding formula go ahead, it was revealed today.

The proposed new formula – due to be published this week – would mean nearly £7m is slashed reducing the annual budget to £11m in 2016/17.

Another £1.3m is expected to be lost during the current financial year from public health as part of national savings of £200m announced by chancellor George Osborne in June.

The figures are revealed in a response by Blackpool Council to consultation by the Department for Health into planned amendments to the formula for funding.

In his submission, Blackpool’s director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura warned the cuts could “cause untold human misery”.

He said services such as those aimed at helping people give up smoking had been shown to improve health but could now be at risk.

Calculations show Blackpool could expect to lose £6.85m.

Dr Rajpura says: “Cutting these services means that ill health that would otherwise have been prevented will progress to serious illness

and preventable long term conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.

“These conditions stop people working, cause avoidable demand in the health and social care system, waste public money, and cause untold human misery.”

It is also claimed the new funding formula means poorer local authorities would get a bigger reduction in their public health grants.

It comes as new research shows widening health inequalities across the country.

An annual report by Sir Michael Marmot into the impact of deprivation on health published recently, found a man in Blackpool could expect to live 55 years without

disability, compared to age 71 in Wokingham, one of the richest areas of the country, a difference of more than 16 years.

Blackpool Council also believes the town’s population has been under-estimated in the 2011 Census due to the challenges of counting people living in the town’s 3,500 HMOs (houses of multiple occupation).

This could also effect the calculations for the public health grant.

Dr Rajpura added in his submission which was presented to Blackpool’s health and wellbeing board: “It is highly likely that drugs and alcohol services and obesity prevention services will have to be cut to meet the public health grant cuts in Blackpool and across Lancashire.

“The formula proposal will undermine the local health economy’s existing plans to manage demand through prevention and frustrate its progress in reducing hospital and adult social care services demand through effective local prevention work.”

Government figures released in October revealed Blackpool is the seventh most deprived town in England. with five areas of the town among the 10 poorest neighbourhoods nationwide.

Coun David Owen, chairman of 38 Degrees which campaigns to protect health services in Blackpool, described the cuts as ‘grim’.

He said: “This is going to exacerbate the problems in Blackpool which we are too well aware of.

“The town has some of the most deprived areas of the country. It has a low wage economy with people living in poor housing in the central areas and both these things inevitably impact on people’s health.

“But we have experts here who were getting to grips with these problems and making progress.

“These cuts will be grim and all this good work is going to stop.”

The boss of Blackpool Victoria Hospital said he hoped the good work being done in public health could continue.

Gary Doherty, chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “At this stage we do not know what the final outcome of any changes to public health budgets will be on our services so it is very difficult to comment in detail.

“We believe that the services we currently provide using funding from Blackpool Council are very effective in preventing ill health and we would be very keen to see them continue.”