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Letters: High price of Osborne's public health cuts

Tuesday 1 December 2015

A number of letters appear in the 27th November edition of the Independent. One of them is from the Patron of BHIVA - Lord Fowler. His letter can be found below:

Increased spending on the health service generally, announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement, is very welcome, but the same cannot be said of the 4 per cent reduction in spending on public health. This comes on top of a £200m cut in public health spending in the current year. These cuts are objectionable on two grounds.

First, when the Government said that "We will be able to increase spending in real terms every year" it was assumed that this pledge covered all health. I do not remember ministers saying that public health was in some way exempted from the pledge.

Second, the Chancellor emphasises the importance of long-term investment, and I very much agree with that. Public health is a prime example of where long-term investment can operate to the benefit of both the public and the Exchequer.

If you take HIV as an example, every case prevented means around £300,000 of lifetime costs avoided. In both human and financial terms the gain is immense.

We need to prevent people from contracting HIV and we need to persuade people at risk to come forward for testing. It is estimated that about a quarter of 107,000 people in Britain living with HIV are undiagnosed, with obvious risks to themselves and the public generally. We also need to care for those men and women living with HIV who can still face serious health problems. Yet here the National Aids Trust report that already some cities are withdrawing from all HIV support services .

This is all a bad prelude for World Aids Day next week.

Norman Fowler

Lord Fowler

House of Lords

Click here to read all letters