Soho faces radical reform of the NHS
By poppy_smith | Saturday, January 05, 2013, 10:22
A major new report from a leading think tank and a flagship London council is paving the way for radical reform in public health from April 2013.
A Dose of Localism: The Role of Council in Public Health is a report by the LGIU and Westminster City Council which outlines five recommendations to implement early intervention techniques and link them to existing council services to help save more lives and money. It includes details on:
- Linking welfare to healthy living – financial incentives in terms of benefits for those that use council leisure facilities, rewarding those that take responsibility for their own health (see page 6).
- Allowing GPs to prescribe leisure activities like swimming and fitness classes as treatment for certain conditions (see pages 5/6).
- Reducing red tape for smaller, non-alcohol-led venues to encourage a more responsible approach to drinking and create the café culture that 24-hour drinking laws promised but never delivered (see page 5).
The report discusses how councils should be linking public health into existing services like adult social services, housing, planning and licensing.
The benefits in terms of improved health and costs saved to the public purse including to acute health services could be "significant". Obesity alone costs the NHS £5.1bn a year – and is an issue that can be directly tackled through early intervention.
However, these findings are jeopardised by uncertainty around the funding for public health, including the proposed formula that central government will use to allocate money to local authorities. The public health funding announcement expected on December 19 was delayed at the last minute following internal fighting within Whitehall.
Cllr Philippa Roe, Leader of Westminster City Council said:
"Councils have a great opportunity to improve lives by thinking how public health can be integrated into existing local services, this can lead to savings being shared across the entire public sector.
"This report contains exactly the sort of bright, forward-thinking and radical ideas that need to be looked at. Local government needs to seriously start considering how it is going to manage public health before April arrives – it is only four months away.
"The potential improvements to the nation's health and to the public purse could be significant. But, for this to work, government needs to sort out the position around the funding formula for public health. There are clearly internal disagreements in Whitehall – this is not helpful and government needs to get a grip of this urgently."
You can download and view the full report here.