Analysis from the Labour party and verified by the House of Commons Library has found that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has lost £7.6 million in funding for local public health services over the last five years, which equates to a cut of 30 per cent, or £46 per person (all real terms).
This comes at a crucial time for the borough where we are carrying out vital work to control the spread of Covid-19 and crucially, promotional work to support the vaccine rollout.
Tower Hamlets is one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in London and the pandemic continues to have a disproportionate effect on BAME residents; on a national level, the figures show that 35 per cent of coronavirus patients in critical care beds are from ethnic minority backgrounds while the UK’s BAME population is just 14 per cent.
This is a devastating statistic, and while the Government has ignored the issue, Tower Hamlets has pushed ahead in engaging with all of our communities to combat this trend. The real terms cut to public health funding undermines this vital work, despite public health staff having spent almost two years working flat out to tackle the worst public health crisis in living memory.
In 2021/22, the public health team (like all other public health teams in England) also took on responsibility for costs associated with the provision of the anti-HIV drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and services related to it.
Local public health teams are also responsible for stop smoking services, sexual health services, health checks, public mental health, drug and alcohol services, children’s public health services, programmes to tackle obesity, amongst other key public health programmes. Their work is crucial because it supports people in Tower Hamlets to stay well and helps prevent health problems.
In last month’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review, the Government announced no real terms change to the total public health grant, which means no more funding for local public health teams in 2022/23.
Cllr Rachel Blake, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing said:
“The public health team here at Tower Hamlets have worked so hard to keep us all safe during the pandemic, and I’m grateful to them for everything they have done. It beggars belief that despite everything we have face over the last two years, the Government is not prioritising public health funding.
“The words ‘Levelling Up’ will mean nothing unless the Government invests in public health and prevention, which is key to improving people’s lives and keeping them healthy for longer.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“Our NHS is in crisis and patients are waiting longer for treatment thanks to years of Tory cuts and a failure to recruit the doctors and nurses needed.
“At last month’s Spending Review, councils were given no real terms increase to the Public Health budget. A good public health service is not just an ‘add-on’ but a vital part of a proper National Health Service, to keep people well and in the community and to challenge health inequalities and through this to reduce pressure on hospital services.”