A stroll in the park

So local authorities are now using public health money to weed the flower beds in your local park (Source - BMJ). Ok, that might be a bit facetious, but that fact is when you give a health budget to a public body with other (non-health) priorities, who are usually strapped for cash, they are going to divert it. The budget may be ring-fenced, but its actual use appears not to be.

A third of local authorities have cut back on health services to use the money for something else. Sneaky. The BMJ claim that services cut include drug support, sexual health, smoking cessation and obesity with money going to sport and leisure, parks, CABs, and housing. All the stuff your rates pay for.

I can’t but nod my head sagely when I read that the BMJ Freedom of Information Act requests sent to 152 councils only produced 143 replies. I thought it was a statutory requirement to respond. How do they get away with that when a GP practice ignoring a request is a heinous crime punishable by a flogging of the senior partner by the PPG? Oh, I forget, they are a semi-government body, so they can just ignore laws like that. I suppose if they are unable to answer a simple legal request they couldn’t be trusted with a budget anyway.

The Public Health England quote that “they don’t have to ask ...how they use their budget - they will be judged by their outcomes” does not engender confidence – a serious outcome judged 6 months later to be negligent and avoidable had the budget been used properly is a bit like bolting the proverbial stable door. It just goes to show that local authorities just do not understand health issues.

I was always a bit dubious about the NHS squillions being spent on smoking cessation anyway. Yes, I know that smoking adversely impacts on health, but there are plenty of commercial resources out there for people who want to quit. If you just keep the support, but cut out the advertising, the NHS will save millions. If you don’t want to quit, and advert on the back of a number 16 bus isn’t going to persuade you otherwise. As a non-smoker, I say leave them alone. Put the money into cancer drugs instead. Or grass cutting.


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