Public health teams across the country are being forced to scale back their Covid response due to uncertainty over funding, ministers have been warned.
As the Government prepares to launch its ‘Living with Covid’ strategy later today, the Local Government Association and the Association of Public Health Directors are calling for urgent clarification on the future of management funding epidemics which ends at the end of March.
The fund, worth £400m in 2021-22, can be used by councils to fund activities that manage or mitigate the spread of the virus. This typically includes services such as local contact tracing, counseling for schools and businesses on outbreak management and prevention, and targeted engagement to increase vaccine uptake, especially among highly vaccine-reluctant communities. regarding the vaccine.
LGA and ADPH say much of this work will need to continue if the country is to live with coronavirus, although they recognize that less money will be needed to provide these services.
The inability of the Department of Health and Social Care to confirm whether funding will continue in the next financial year has reportedly meant that some councils have already let staff providing these services go.
The Living with Covid strategy should mean the end of self-isolation for people with Covid and the end of universal free lateral flow testing from the end of April. However, vaccines will continue to be at the heart of the government’s plans.
ADPH President Jim McManus said: ‘The uncertainty surrounding the Lockdown Epidemic Management Fund means there is reduced capacity within local government, leading to the loss of experienced staff and leaving weaker capacity at the local level, to the detriment of local communities and health protection. system.
“This could hamper the government’s upcoming ‘Living with Covid’ strategy and put other public health services at risk.”
David Fothergill (Con), Chairman of the LGA Community Wellbeing Council, said: “As national systems are stretched thin, it is important that local public health teams still have the tools they need to be able to respond to new variants and fight outbreaks, especially in high risk settings.
The government’s plan was due to be announced this afternoon after a cabinet meeting this morning. However, there was report this afternoon that the cabinet meeting was delayed due to last-minute talks between the chancellor and the health secretary.
DHSC has been contacted for comment.