Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
To the Editor
David Brindle is quite right that cutting public health funding is “a silly mistake” (“Osborne’s public health cut is a blunder too far”, 2 September 2015). I would have put it more strongly.
When Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, appeared before the Health Committee in July, I asked him how he expected the NHS to make the unprecedented £22 billion worth of savings which the Government has demanded. About half of his lengthy answer could be summed up in a single word: prevention.
To take just one example, the borough which I represent has the highest number of hospital admissions related to alcohol abuse of any local authority in London. Each admission costs the NHS more than £2,000 on average. The public health grant which George Osborne is about to cut helps pay for simple interventions, like screening for alcohol abuse at GP surgeries, that cost a tiny fraction of what the NHS pays further down the line.
To describe this approach, in the words of the King’s Fund, as “the falsest of false economies” seems to me almost an understatement.
Emily Thornberry MP (Labour, Islington South and Finsbury)
House of Commons Health Select Committee