Local authority austerity associated with poor health

Although they showed that total public health expenditure increased slightly over the period of analysis, like-for-like public health expenditure actually fell in real-terms from 2014/15.

In particular, funding for health at work programmes fell by 47%, the NHS health check programme by 24%, and smoking and tobacco cessation programmes by 24%.

 Study author Dr Jonathan Stokes, a Research Fellow from The University of Manchester said: “Recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that spending will still be substantially less for local government in 2024/25 than in 2010.

“So some local authorities might still have to cut services over the next few years. We show that can have worrying implications on health and related quality of life, particularly for the poorest areas and people who have more reliance on publicly funded services.

“Not only does austerity have implications on current health, it could very well decrease population resilience for future pandemics or other shocks.

“For example, other studies have shown mortality was higher for Covid-19 for those with co-morbidities. The decade of austerity prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated multimorbidity increases, therefore, might have worsened the population effects.”

Study author Professor Peter Bower from The University of Manchester said: “These cuts, enacted following the 2008 global financial crisis, were largely imposed by national government, and not primarily influenced by levels of local service needs.

“National policymakers involved in determining grant formulas should aim to better reflect the additional reliance of some communities on this public investment.

“And they should consider that any suppression of funding for wider local government services might have implications for increasing future healthcare service costs.”

The paper ‘The paper Cuts to local government spending, multimorbidity and health-related quality of life: a longitudinal ecological study in England’ is available here

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