Public health services in Lancashire are under threat, less than two-and-a-half years after they were transferred from the NHS to County Hall.
Government cuts of £4m from the health budget, coupled with news that a £2m increase has been scrapped, have left some services facing an uncertain future.
Probably one of the worst worries is the reduction in the number of school nurses. Part of the work is giving medication to children who require it during the dayCoun John Swindells
“When we fixed our budget in February the council understood the grant for public health would be likely to go up by £2m,” explained the county’s deputy leader David Borrow. “So the budget included £2m in addition.
“So, in effect, the decision to cut the grant by £4m means the county council, partway through the financial year, has to take £6m out of the public health budget.”
Services like work to prevent heart problems, kidney disease and strokes and assistance to help people stop smoking or lose weight are among areas likely to be badly hit by the Whitehall economies.
School nurses, mental health promotion, infection control, inoculation and programmes like contraception are also under attack from the new economies.
There has even been a suggestion the task of giving medication to children, in the absence of a school nurse, could fall to pupil “buddies” – and idea branded as “outrageous” by one councillor.
Coun John Swindells, deputy leader of Preston City Council,said: “Probably one of the worst worries is the reduction in the number of school nurses. Part of the work is giving medication to children who require it during the day.
“It is said this role will be picked up by teachers. But it’s quite clear from the trade unions that teachers who are untrained in giving medication will not pick that up for fear of litigation.
“So either the mum or dad have to come into school to give the medication. Maybe you could have a buddy that’s been trained – but that buddy will be another child within the school.”
Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire, said: “Some of the services mentioned will be transferred over to us from the NHS later this year, and we’re already working on how we will deliver those services, based on the budget we predict we’re likely to have.”