Central funding for smoking cessation services was cut by over a third over three years, an analysis has showed.
Research from the Labour Party published on Tuesday (27 November) showed that budgets for stop smoking services and interventions were slashed by 36% per head between 2013/14 and 2016/17.
Earlier this month, the Government said that prevention will be at the heart of the upcoming long-term plan, branding smoking cessation as a ‘major priority’.
Labour’s analysis showed that the Government cut funding for stop smoking services and interventions by 36% between 2013/14 and 2016/17, the equivalent of £2.09 spent per head.
It also found that funding for sexual health services per head dropped by 29% over the same period. Similarly, spending on specialist drug and alcohol misuse services for children and young people fell by 25%.
The shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that budget cuts to public health services are ‘short-sighted and will only lead to wider pressures on the NHS and adult social care services’.
He added: ‘Ministers who boast of their commitment to prevention won’t be taken seriously while at the same time cutting vital services that support pregnant mothers, help people stop smoking or tackle sexually transmitted infections and substance misuse.
‘Not only are these cuts completely misguided, they also shamefully mean some of the most vulnerable in society are failed again as they go without treatment and support.’
More cuts ahead
In September, the Labour Party revealed that cuts to public health budgets mean that local authorities will have to find £800m worth of savings by 2021.
Asked on Tuesday (27 November) by Work and Pensions shadow minister Mike Amesbury whether the Government will reverse the cuts, pharmacy minister Steve Brine said that eight and a half years of austerity ‘is not a long time to clear up the mess of the last Government’.
He added: ‘The Government has a strong track record on public health. Local authorities in England have received more than £16bn in ring-fenced public health grants over the current spending period.
‘Decisions on future funding for that area of spending are of course for the next spending review.
‘We are very clear […] that a focus on prevention will be central to the long-term plan.’