Public health funding increase secured
14 January 2013
The Association of North East Councils has welcomed the announcement by the Department of Health to increase the amount of money being made available for local authorities by over £400 million to fund public health services next year - from £2.23 billion to £2.66 billion.
The body advising Government about funding allocations, the Advisory Committee of Regional Allocations, has listened to representations made by ANEC and health sector colleagues and responded by proposing a number of changes to its original recommendations which would have seen the North East lose 30% of its current funding. As well as increasing the overall level of funding for public health, ACRA has reviewed the weighting of resources towards areas facing the greatest health challenges, such as the North East.
In this area of the country, we have higher and more complex health needs, which we have been able to help address through funding for preventive measures and early interventions. ANEC member authorities were, therefore, concerned when the Department for Health highlighted the potential for funding to be allocated on criteria that would have placed less emphasis on levels of need and deprivation. The impact of such proposals would have re-directed resources away from deprived areas with high health needs and would have resulted in the North East losing 30% of its current share, while more affluent areas in the South East, South West and East of England would have gained by 25%. 10 out of 12 councils in the North East would have been worse off under such proposals.
To underline its concerns about the proposals in 'Healthy Lives, Healthy People' (published summer 2012), ANEC provided the Department of Health with compelling evidence that showed that investing in public health improvement and preventative measures make a real difference both to people's health and in terms of reducing future cost pressures on public spending and in reducing health inequalities.
Whilst ANEC did not seek to claim that levels of investment in public health in the North East were singularly responsible for improved health outcomes, since there are multiple factors at play, it underlined that the level of funding available to support preventive measures is a significant contributory factor that has had demonstrable positive impacts. Despite the significant successes which have been achieved, the North East still has significant health challenges and more complex and demanding needs, relative to the rest of the country, which is why ANEC has welcomed this latest announcement by the Department of Health. ACRA has now given a higher weight to the areas with greatest challenges through altering the 'gearing' of 3:1 to 5:1 with a view to reviewing in the medium term; funding has been allocated for two years to 2014/15.
North East local government is keen to continue a constructive dialogue with the Government to ensure that in embracing its new responsibilities for public health that it is adequately funded to achieve national and local ambitions for improving the health outcomes for all its citizens and does not create an additional burden for authorities at a time of significant cost pressures in public service delivery.
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