Christina Marriott, Chief Executive of RSPH said: “This budget was the opportunity to acknowledge that public health and the public’s health underpins the wealth of the nation.
“We support the announcement of measures which enable continued protection from Covid-19, including the increased funding for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines, and towards the research, manufacture and testing of future vaccines against the coronavirus.
“We are pleased to see further safeguards against the financial impacts of the pandemic, which has its own implications for mental and physical health, through the extension of the furlough scheme and the extension to the uplift to Universal Credit.
“We also welcome the announcement of the Community Ownership Fund. Research we undertook as part of our Community Spirit Programme highlighted widespread concern about the fate of community venues and organisations beyond the pandemic. We are pleased to see support being given to these, given their importance to social wellbeing.
“Together with the continuation of business rates relief, the reduction in the VAT rate and the direct cash grants being offered to businesses to reinvigorate our high streets, we hope these measures support our communities to be socially and economically vibrant places to live once it is safe to enjoy them fully again.
“However, we are concerned that funding for public health is largely linked to the Covid-19 recovery, when we know that the efforts of local public health teams to improve and protect health have been challenged for years by continuous cuts to the public health grant. Covid-19 has shown us the devastating impact of poor public health – just yesterday it was announced that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million Covid-related deaths across the world have occurred in countries where more than 50% of the population is overweight or obese and so investment in population-level health improvement is essential. Public health requires sustained funding, not just in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“So we are disappointed to see that the duties on alcohol have been frozen for another year and there is no extension to the sugar tax. The Government has missed the opportunity to increase its revenue and simultaneously safeguard the population’s health by making healthier options more affordable.
“Notable for its absence from yesterday’s announcement was any mention of increased funding for the NHS. The Spending Review last November confirmed the NHS’s spending settlement for this financial year, but with the cost of addressing the backlog of operations, the growing impact of ‘long Covid’ and a surge in people needing mental health support, the Chancellor appears to have neglected the diverse health impacts of Covid-19.
“This ‘recovery budget’ seems to be weighted more in favour of economic recovery, and we question where the recovery for health will come from.”