Hampshire County Council halves proposed £6.8m public health cuts
PLANS to slash Hampshire County Council’s public health budget have been changed following a public outcry.
HCC had announced plans to cut £6.8m, including for sexual health, substance abuse treatment, 0-19 nursing (including school nursing) and anti-smoking campaigns, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
But at a health and adult social care select committee meeting, officers unveiled plans to instead cut of £3.1m – less than half of that initially proposed.
It comes after 3,060 people responded to the consultation, with particularly fierce opposition to the reduction of school nurse support and bringing an end to psychosexual counselling.
Cllr David Harrison, a Totton and Marchwood member and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health and adult social care, welcomed the change, saying: "I think this is a very well-thought out list of reductions.
"It’s relatively easy for accountants to tell us how much is being saved, but what’s rather more difficult is putting a value on the consequences.
"It’s like being thrown off a cliff and then being asked how you feel about it."
Under the new proposals, the substance misuse treatment service in Winchester will not be closed, unsupported prescribing to stop smoking will be stopped in order to keep face-to-face smoking services open, and duplicated HIV and syphilis self-sampling services will cease.
There will also be no cuts to public health nursing.
The meeting’s chair, Cllr Bill Withers, voiced his optimism over the proposals – particularly in maintaining face-to-face contact.
He said: "There has been a lot of success in using digital platforms, but face-to-face contact is still very important."
The One Voice Partnership, which includes the Royal College of Midwives, Institute of Health Visitors and others, was one of the organisations to give feedback in the consultation.
Chief executive Gill Walton said: "We are really pleased that our collective voices and concerns have been listened to by the county council.
"What was due to happen to public health budgets in Hampshire is happening elsewhere across the UK.
"We absolutely recognise the strain that local authority budgets are under, but slashing spending for some of the most vulnerable is a false economy."
The new proposals will be officially submitted next month.