Concern over council's new public health responsibilities (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Concern over Waltham Forest council's new public health responsibilities
Concerns have been raised that Waltham Forest Council will struggle to meet its new health responsibilities when they take them up in April.
Under the coalition government's controversial NHS reforms local authorities are set to begin providing some 'Public Health' services which previously were run by the NHS.
These include aspects of sexual health care, immunisations, schemes tackling obesity, and other pre-emptive measures designed to improve the overall health of the population.
However Waltham Forest Council has complained that its level of funding is unfair, and now the Women of Walthamstow (WoW) campaign group has questioned whether it can cope.
The council has dismissed the fears and said residents are unlikely to notice any changes.
But WoW said there were real concerns that the council's new grant is not enough and that much of it will get swallowed up by an inherited overspend.
The borough was initially allocated £8.55million a year but this was later increased to £11.16million.
However this is just over a third of the £30.38million Westminster will get – despite it having nearly half the population of Waltham Forest.
Last year WoW led a successful campaign against the refusal of staff at Addison Road Medical Centre in Walthamstow to provide contraception on religious grounds.
But it says more work is still needed to improve access to sexual health services in Waltham Forest and believe the budget “squeeze” on the council will scupper this.
WoW's Jenny Lennox said: "The problems with sexual health services in the borough stem from historic underfunding for the provision required.
"And despite the increase provided by the government in the public health grant, we are still a long way from the sums really needed to deliver a good service for residents."
The council’s cabinet member for health, Cllr Ahsan Khan, said: “contracts should continue to run as normal and local people are unlikely to see any change whatsoever.
“We are well aware of the borough’s very particular health needs, and, as such, we campaigned for – and received – additional funding to help us carry out our public health duties.
"However, we still believe a system that gives wealthy boroughs with a fraction of our population like Westminster three times as much money is fundamentally unfair”.
The government says Waltham Forest is getting an above average increase in funding and any national redistribution would destabilise health services.
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