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CUTS ‘HIT CORONAVIRUS CAPACITY’

by danielbarker on 23 March, 2020

Published in Local Government Chronicle BY JON BUNN

The public health grant will increase by 4.8% next year in a move government says is intended to cover the costs of wage increases for NHS staff working in organisations commissioned by councils.

The overall grant for 2020-21 was finally confirmed last week as £3.28bn compared to £3.13bn this year. This is 3 percentage points above inflation which stood at 1.8% in January.

However, the grant is still 5.5% (£190m) lower than the overall allocation in 2015-16 of £3.47bn.

The delay to announcing the grant has been blamed on discussions within the Department for Health & Social Care over funding for wage rises for staff providing public health services who are on NHS terms and conditions under the ‘Agenda for Change’ pay deal.

In a circular detailing the grant for 2020-21, the DHSC said the grant includes an adjustment to cover the estimated additional cost of pay rises for NHS staff in organisations commissioned by councils for public health services under the Agenda for Change programme.However, the document does not specify the expected overall cost of these pay rises.

Yesterday the government confirmed councils will receive £16m to deliver the HIV drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP) next year.

Association of Directors of Public Health president Jeanelle de Gruchy said the grant increase was “a positive step after year upon year of deep cuts”.

“We now have the certainty the ADPH has been calling for since December and directors of public health can focus on the nation’s number one priority: ensuring the best possible response to coronavirus,” she added.

However, she warned that the “reality on the ground” is that the grant will not immediately address the loss of councils’ capacity to prepare for outbreaks such as coronavirus, or reverse the loss of staff and services focused on early years health, sexual health and drug and alcohol treatment “overnight”. There is also significant variation in the percentage increases for individual councils.

A total of 21 councils will receive an annual uplift next year of more than 6%, while four councils will receive an increase of less than 2%. These are North Somerset Council, South Tyneside MBC, Council of the Isles of Scilly and the City of London Corporation.

A further 30 councils will receive an increase of less than 4%.

Ms de Gruchy added: “Directors of public health will continue to face tough decisions. What is needed, through the upcoming Spending Review, is a significant, multi-year settlement for public health – just like the NHS.

“There is a growing consensus from commissioners, providers, charities and professional bodies that long-term investment in local public health is essential to reduce pressure on the NHS, narrow inequalities, improve wellbeing, drive productivity and maintain a resilient health protection system.”

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