Hundreds gather at the Sage Gateshead for public health conference

Health devolution for North East among the issues due to be debated at Faculty of Public Health's annual conference at the Sage

The Sage Gateshead
The Sage Gateshead

Hundreds of health leaders are gathering in the region today for a two-day conference which will include a debate on possible health devolution for the North East.

Members of the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) are meeting at Sage, Gateshead, for their annual conference which will see speakers from across the UK discuss a range of health issues.

Among those debated will be the question of health devolution for the North East - and whether it would be of benefit to the region.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Greater Manchester would become the first region in England to get full control of health spending. Ten councils in the area will take over the local NHS budget from April next year, and integrate it with social care which they already run. It will be controlled by a directly-elected mayor from 2017 who will also oversee transport, housing, policing and planning.

The question as to whether health devolution would work in the North East will be discussed on Wednesday in a debate which will include Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council.

Newcastle City Council Leader Nick Forbes
Newcastle City Council Leader Nick Forbes

The conference is expected to attract more than 400 delegates from across the UK.

Among other issues discussed will be the effects of proposed spending cuts on public health for North East local authorities.

The FPH believe that, should Treasury plans to cut £200 million from local authority budgets be implemented, the health of people in the region will suffer.

One of the organisation’s expert members analysed the potential impact of the cuts and found 20 local authorities, including South Tyneside and County Durham, could be hardest hit by cuts.

The organisation has estimated County Durham could suffer cuts of around £6.25 for every resident, while South Tyneside would see losses of £6.16 per person.

Prof John Ashton, president of the FPH, said: “These cuts are a potential disaster for people’s health and healthcare.

“For example, these cuts could lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies and drug-related crime if people cannot access sexual health or drug treatment services.

“Even people living in wealthy areas will be affected. In addition, the growing divide between the ‘health-haves’ and ‘have-nots’ will get wider.

“It is a false distinction to think of NHS and public health funding as separate.”

Leader of Newcastle City Nick Forbes said: “Making cuts on this scale will be extraordinarily difficult without having a negative impact on services we commission from the NHS, and there is a real risk that by cutting spending on preventative services we create additional pressures on hard pressed health services.”

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