Fears over proposed £4.1million cut to public health grant funding in South Tyneside

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Concerns have been raised about the future of public health services in South Tyneside over proposals to slash grant funding by almost a third.

In 2020/21 public health funding is expected to shift from ring-fenced grants to 75 % business rate retention.

The new funding formula used to decide public health pots could see 12 North East councils lose out on a combined £40million.

Under the proposals, South Tyneside Council would see the grant cut from £14.124million to 10.020million – a 29 per cent reduction on 2017/18.

And council bosses have claimed cuts would impact key services tackling health issues and social inequalities in the borough.

Cabinet member for independence and wellbeing, Coun Tracey Dixon, said: “Despite reduced levels of funding from central government, we remain committed to working with our partners to take action to reduce the health burden caused by social inequalities in our communities.

“Our public health approach has already seen some significant successes.

“Smoking rates in South Tyneside, for example, have steadily declined from almost 23% in 2011 to 18% in 2017.

“Any further cuts to our funding would seriously hamper our efforts to improve the public’s health and will ultimately be counter-productive.”

The regional  impact of the cuts was revealed at a meeting of Durham’s Health and Wellbeing Board this month, with the hardest-hit areas including Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Redcar and Cleveland.

Public health funding typically backs campaigns and services to address health inequalities, promote healthy lifestyles and tackle issues around teen pregnancy, sexual health and mental health.

According to the latest Public Health England data, levels of adult excess weight, smoking and physical activity in South Tyneside are worse than the England average

Cabinet member for innovation and resources, Coun Ed Malcolm, added: “Although these proposals are still very much in draft form, we are standing together as a region to challenge them, especially when considering the wider financial challenges facing local government.

“We already know we are the third hardest hit local authority in terms of cuts from central government.

“These proposals will compound this situation still further in an area which already suffers from significant health inequalities with higher rates of respiratory diseases, cancers, obesity and smoking in our most deprived communities.

“We continue to lobby central government to provide a fairer settlement for all services as part of the fair funding review.”

The Independent Advisory Committee for Resource Allocation (ACRA) formula is used to decide public health grants within business rate retention.

Predictions for future funding for local authorities are based on 2015/16 ACRA proposals and public health grant allocations for 2017/18.

South Tyneside Council’s public health at a glance

(Source: South Tyneside Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment 2018)

South Tyneside is one of the 20% most deprived districts/unitary authorities in England.

Around 26% (6,500) children live in low income families.

Life expectancy for both men and women is lower than the England averages

This includes 77.5 years for males and 81.5 years for females compared with  79.5 years and 83.1 years respectively for England

Smoking

The proportion of adults that smoke in South Tyneside fell between 2010 and 2016 from 24.5% to 18.5%.

Rates of smoking are highest among young adults aged 25 to 29, males and people from socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

One in ten smokers in South Tyneside access NHS Stop Smoking Services each year and in 2016/17, 46 per cent who set a quit date quit at four weeks.

However, deaths relating to lung cancer are still 65% higher in South Tyneside than in England.

Alcohol

Figures from 2011 – 2014 showed South Tyneside had the highest rate in England for binge drinking.

In 2015/16, there were 1,460 hospital admissions for alcohol-related harm with 982 per 100,000 population compared to 647 for England.

A report on South Tyneside Council’s new alcohol strategy – backed by councillors in November 2018 – revealed the £57million cost of alcohol misuse to the borough per year.

This is split between the cost to health services, the cost to local employers due to absenteeism and lost productivity and the cost of dealing with crime and disorder.

Obesity

In South Tyneside, 71.3% of adults were classed as overweight or obese, higher than the England prevalence of 64.6%

For children, 11.3% of reception class age were obese compared to 9.3% for England.

Additionally,  22.2% of year six children were obese, compared to 19.8% for England.

Underlying causes of obesity include availability of high calorie food,  more sedentary lifestyles, use of cars as means of transport and existing health problems from type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer.

Teenage Pregnancy

Latest full year data for South Tyneside for 2015 shows there were  64 conceptions to girls aged under 18 years, giving a rate of 25 per 1,000 girls aged 15-17.

This  is lower than the North East rate of 28.0 per 1,000 girls aged 15-17 but higher than the England rate of 20.8.

Local data also shows links between teen pregnancy and deprivation.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service