Huge cuts to council-run health budgets have been imposed - despite dire warnings that services will suffer.
The government has hammered all councils with an immediate 6.2 per cent cut to this year’s public health budget, a move slammed for hitting the poorest council areas the hardest.
School nursing, suicide prevention, smoking cessation, sexual health and weight-loss support are among services which could be hit by the cutbacks.
Wakefield Council’s 2015-16 public health budget will be cut by just over £1.5m, Calderdale’s by £798,000 and Kirklees Council’s will fall by more than £1.6m.
Leeds will take the biggest hit among Yorkshire councils, with a cut of £2.8m. Bradford’s budget will be slashed by £2.5m and Sheffield City Council’s by £2.1m.
Sarah Dodsworth, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These plans will disproportionately hit poorer communities in harder to reach areas and will make health inequalities worse.”
In total £200m will be cut from the 2015-16 public health grant.
The Department of Health said it was increasing the NHS budget by £10bn and had ring-fenced council’s public health funding.
The department said: “But difficult decisions need to be made across government to reduce the deficit and ensure the sustainability of our public services. Local authorities have shown that more can be done for less to provide the best value for the taxpayer.
“Like the rest of the public sector, councils will have to continue to play their part in fixing the public finances, to ensure we deliver security for working people across the country.”
A Department of Health (DH) consultation report said 27 councils which commented on the impact of the cuts said it would have a negative impact on health inequalities.
Several argued that the cuts went against health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s duties under equality legislation, and: “Others were disappointed that DH had not completed an equality analysis before publishing the consultation document.”
Research by the Faculty of Public Health also estimates that the cuts to council budgets will lead to £1bn of extra NHS spending.