‘Public health crisis’ in York created by cuts to alcohol and drug services

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Alcohol and drug abuse in York has led to a “public health crisis” in the city – according to councillors.

And people are struggling to access treatment because of Government cuts to local public health budgets.

A City of York Council meeting heard that a number of experienced staff had lost their jobs due to funding cuts to the city’s substance misuse treatment service.

And that there has been a knock-on effect on appointments – with an increase in the amount of time people wait to see a specialist or a doctor.

The number of people admitted to hospital in York for drinking and related illnesses is significantly above the national average – and health bosses described the issue as “a concern” earlier this year.

Cuts to public health budgets mean funding for services to help drink and drug users will be slashed by more than £500,000 during the next five years.

Waiting times increased

Cllr Michael Pavlovic
One councillor says she will be calling on the government to “urgently reinstate” spending on public health for York.

Cllr Michael Pavlovic said:

  • We talk and we talk and in the interim people get sicker and people die.

    There is a lack of urgency in addressing what I would argue is a public health crisis.

    Caseloads have increased, waiting times to get a referral have increased, the number of appointments that are able to be offered – as part of an incredibly important process to help people either stop drinking or stay off drinking – have been reduced.

The meeting heard that £200,000 of one-off funding had been put back into the service – but it is not long-term funding so staff could not be re-hired.

Fiona Phillips, assistant director of public health at the council, said: “It is difficult for services to plan ahead.

“It’s a really difficult situation that we have found ourselves in. We are working closely with Changing Lives to make sure we are still providing a service, especially to the most vulnerable.

“Nationally, public health budgets have been reduced. So we have had to look [at savings] across public health services.”

She added that the health services and other organisations across the city need to team up with the council to help tackle the challenge.

‘Chronically underfunded’

Cllr Anna Perrett, speaking after the meeting, said she will write to the Government to argue for better funding for York – saying the service is “chronically underfunded”.

She said: “It is vital that we lobby national government to urgently reinstate spending on public health to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents.

“I will be writing to Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to this end.”

Cllr Chris Cullwick said: “We all welcome the additional funding but the longer term funding has to be secured.”

The committee agreed to write to the council’s executive member for health and adult social care to express their concerns about cuts to the service.