The review announced no increase in the public health grant to local councils, which between 2015/16 and 2020 has fallen by 22% per head in real terms.
Some of the major announcements with implications for Public Health included:
- £5.4 billion to help local authorities in England respond to the impacts of Covid-19 in 2020-21. This will go alongside financial support to local councils in the highest tier of restrictions for local public health initiatives such as targeted testing for hard-to-reach groups. However, this is far from the £8.7 billion which the Local Government Association estimate is required to cover the funding gaps and to continue providing vital services, after councils have undergone £15 billion of cuts over the past decade.
- An additional £3 billion to the NHS to support its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, to begin to clear the backlog of elective services and reduce waiting times for mental health services.
- £52 billion for frontline health services to continue their work in tackling Covid-19, including £22 billion for the Test and Trace programme, £15 billion for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and £2.7 billion to support the development and procurement of vaccines.
- £25.8 million to increase the value of Healthy Start Vouchers to £4.25 in line with the recommendation of the National Food Strategy.
- £220 million for the Holiday Activities and Food programme to provide activities and healthy meals for disadvantaged children in the school holidays in 2021.
Christina Marriott, Chief Executive of RSPH, said:
“We welcome the Government’s announcement of increased funding to frontline services, which continue to be a critical line of defence against Covid-19, and for putting the necessary resources into procuring the vaccines in development which promise us a way out of this crisis.
“However, today’s announcement suggests that the Government, despite its rhetoric, has failed to heed one of the major lessons of 2020: that cuts to local public health are a false economy. The continued refusal to adequately fund the public health services provided by local councils - at a time when they are experiencing greater financial pressures than ever in meeting the social, economic and health costs of Covid-19 - does not chime with the Chancellor’s ‘whatever it takes’ mantra earlier this year. This failure to invest in the public’s health will impact people up and down the country, and as ever, the burden will fall hardest on the most deprived.
"The Government continues to talk of its levelling up agenda, but today’s Spending Review makes it clear that inequalities in health - so starkly highlighted by this pandemic - are set to widen further in the years to come unless more drastic action is taken.”