PROPOSED new NHS pay rises not fully funded by the UK Government could end up leading to vital public health service cuts if they are not funded, councils and directors of public health are warning.

Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care wrote to councils to explain that they would be expected to use their existing budgets in order to pay for increases in NHS pay for community services they commissioned.

At this week’s Annual Public Health Conference,  the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) said this would push already stretched budgets to the limit, putting services such as school nursing, sexual health clinics and health visitors at risk.

The proposed new increases would include a 5.2 per cent pay rise for staff during 2023-4, as well as a one off six per cent cost for 2022-3 for staff and are currently being consulted upon by health trade unions.

The government has increased the local public health grant provided to councils by 3.2 per cent this year. However, the LGA has warned that meeting potential NHS pay demands would far exceed any increases they have had in in their grant for next year, leading to a need for services to be cut.

Councils are calling on the government to avoid placing new financial burdens on already stretched community health services and instead to fund NHS pay rises in full.

Recent LGA analysis showed that local public health services, including sexual health support or vital health visitors for local families, were experiencing a surge in demand, but a decline in both funding and staffing levels.

In the last ten years, funding for council-commissioned sexual health services has dropped by 17 per cent in real terms, while the number of visitors to clinics increased by 36 per cent during the same period. Similarly, the number of community health visitors has fallen by nearly 40 per cent due to a combination of funding reductions and recruitment issues, shown by the most recent NHS statistics.

Councils are warning that these vital services are at risk without government support to meet a proposed five per cent pay increase for tens of thousands of NHS staff working in council commissioned community health services across the country.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “NHS pay rises cannot and should not be an additional burden on already pressured council public health budgets. Public health services, such as for sexual health or school nurses, are crucial in helping to relieve the pressure on our health and care system but these unfunded pay increases mean they could face an uncertain future.

“Vital public health services run by local councils cannot continue to maximise their role at the heart of communities while continually having to make budget cuts or manage uncosted new burdens. To ensure our vital services can continue supporting those in our communities who need it the most, the government should fund new NHS pay rises in full.”

* Source: Local Government Association