Leicestershire County Council has given it's unanimous backing to a campaign by Cancer Research UK to increase funding for public health prevention services.
A motion proposed by leader of Leicestershire Lib Dems Councillor Michael Mullaney calling for support for the campaign got support from all parties. Michael Mullaney said "Almost every family in Leicestershire will have been affected by cancer. Each year around 4,000 people in the county develop cancer and sadly around 2,000 die from it.
"The public health grant has been reduced by nearly a quarter (24%) since 2015/16, despite a growing and urgent need for investment in public health and prevention. These reductions are having a significant impact on public health services and functions. Taking these funds away from prevention services that prevent ill health is a false economy.
"Smoking, obesity and alcohol have been estimated to account for 80,000, 30,000 and 7,000 early deaths each year respectively; and smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable cancer.
"That's why, with the support of Cancer Research UK, this motion calls on the UK Government to provide increased and sustainable funding for public health - to prevent ill health, reduce health inequalities and support a sustainable health and social care system."
The full text of the motion proposed by Michael Mullaney and seconded by Cllr Louise Richardson was as follows
PREVENTION SERVICES, PUBLIC HEALTH AND CANCER
(a) This Council notes that:
(i) Preventable disease and mortality continue to have a massive impact on the public's health, the NHS and the economy. This has only come into sharper focus since the emergence of COVID-19, with preventable causes of cancer such as obesity being associated with a higher risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19. Further disruption caused by COVID-19 has also had a detrimental effect on the diagnosis of cancer cases; Cancer Research UK estimates that 3 million fewer people were screened in the UK between March and September 2020.
(ii) Investment in disease prevention and the public health grant must be a priority for the UK Government. The grant funds vital services and functions that prevent ill health, reduce health inequalities, and contribute to the future sustainability of the NHS. Local authorities are responsible for improving the health of their populations and do this through services such as stop smoking services, tobacco control and action on diet, exercise, and obesity. But their ability to do so is compromised by continued reductions to the Public Health grant.
(iii) In 2020/21, the public health grant was given a small uplift of £45 million by the UK Government - equivalent to a cash increase of 0.67%. In reality, however, this represents a 24% reduction, equivalent to £1 billion on a real term basis since 2015/16.
(iv) Taking funds away from prevention is a false economy. Without proper investment in public health, people suffer, demand on local health services increases, and the economy suffers. This uplift does not consider the impact of COVID-19 on local government budgets, nor their response to the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic. As well as working hard to safely deliver normal public health functions, councils have also had to respond to the pandemic by supporting national efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect vulnerable members of the community and support local businesses and communities. In consequence, local preventive action has suffered.
(v) Unless funding to improve public health is increased, our health and care system will remain locked in a 'treatment' approach, which is neither economically viable nor protects the health of residents. Deprived areas suffer the worst health outcomes, so it is also vital that areas with the greatest need receive sufficient funding to meet their local challenges. An estimated 27,000 cases of cancer a year in England are associated with socioeconomic deprivation.
(b) This Council further notes that in Leicestershire, there are around 4,000 cancer cases per year, and around 2,000 deaths from cancer per year. Around four in ten cancers are preventable, largely through avoidable risk factors, such as stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight and cutting back on alcohol. In 2017, smoking was estimated to account for 80,000 early deaths every year in England and it remains the largest preventable cause of cancer in the world. Smoking-related ill health costs local authorities £883.5 million every year in social care costs. Additionally, obesity and alcohol account for 30,000 and 7,000 early deaths each year respectively.
(c) This Council therefore supports Cancer Research UK's calls for increased and sustainable public health funding, which will also help to level up unfair health inequalities, bolster our health and social care system and the economy, and help us rebuild and recover from COVID-19. In turn, Leicestershire County Council will continue to support and fund locally-delivered prevention services and other public health initiatives to the best of our abilities - to prevent ill-health, reduce inequalities and support a health and social care system that is fit for the future.