Cuts Hitting Harm Reduction

Posted 7th January 2019 by Dave Cross
Cuts to council public health budgets have been called “short sighted” and some regions of the United Kingdom are reporting record lows in spending on public health campaigns. The fire service is reporting “long-term under-investment” and highlighting that this is having a direct impact on its ability to provide advice to the public on how to reduce risk.

Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, responded to the announced cut in public health grants allocation: “Today’s announcement confirms that councils’ public health budgets will continue to face significant spending reductions. The Government has announced an extra £20 billion for the NHS, but is now taking vital money away from the services which can be used to prevent illness and the need for treatment later down the line.”

“Cutting the public health budget is incredibly short-sighted and will undermine our ability to improve the public’s health and to keep the pressure off the NHS and social care. Further reductions to the public health budget reinforces the view that central government sees prevention services as nice-to-do but ultimately non-essential.”

“Local authorities were eager to pick up the mantle of public health in 2013 but many will now feel that they have been handed all of the responsibility but without the appropriate resources to do so. Many councils will be forced to take tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back, or stopped altogether, to plug funding gaps. It is vital that the Government uses the 2019 Spending Review to deliver truly sustainable funding for public health in local government.”

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK, said: “Public awareness campaigns are important and do work. It’s concerning that investment in them appears to have fallen significantly. We know past campaigns to encourage people to use smoking cessation services have worked, as have those making people more aware of symptoms to go to their doctor with. They are a vital component in our efforts to tackle cancer in Scotland and we really must see them funded accordingly.”

Professor Linda Bauld added: “Well-designed mass media campaigns that either raise people’s awareness of the risks of smoking and second-hand smoke or alternatively prompt people to quit by offering helplines and resources. Mass media is a really essential part of that, and to not be investing in those campaigns, which are not that expensive when you compare them to the cost of treating somebody, is very unfortunate.”

The Fire Service has been doing a sterling job in highlighting that vaping has reduced the number of house fires caused by cigarettes, but this action is also under threat.

The Fire Brigades Union said: "Ministers must urgently invest in the fire and rescue service to ensure that the public are kept safe."

A consequence of ignorance is accidents happening to people like Oscar Khan. The Leicester resident was unaware that carrying batteries in his trouser pocket could pose a danger and suffered burns when cells shorted. It is essential that responsible vendors of batteries and vape devices include instructions on how to store and use cells safely.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker