Burden on a stretched NHS could have been eased

Bill Nighy and the cast of Ordeal by Innocence

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We understand that right now there is huge pressure on the public sector.

The inevitable result of the government’s austerity agenda is that local authorities are having their budgets squeezed like never before.

As a result, some very difficult decisions are having to be made. If there’s not enough money, something has to give.

But what price do you put on a nation’s health?

This is one of the most contentious areas for cutbacks. While NHS funding receives some protection, other parts of this country’s health network face swingeing cuts.

On pages 8 and 9 today, as part of a week-long series of special reports, we look at the impact on teams working to encourage people to lead more healthy lifestyles and live longer.

When Public Health England was created in April 2013, the aim was to cut down on illness. Do that, so the thinking went, and it would reduce the pressure on the NHS to deal with the consequences of obesity, poor diet, smoking and alcohol and drug dependency.

It was a laudable aim and made so much sense. Far better to prevent the problem than end up having to deal with the hugely expensive end result.

But the problem is that the responsibility for such health work passed from the NHS to local authorities – and now they are having their budgets cut.

The really frustrating thing is that the work that now won’t be done could have ended up saving so much more by reducing the burden on an overstretched NHS.

Now we’ll never know because long-term improvements to public health have had to make way for short-term savings.