HAMPSHIRE County Council has dropped plans to slash its public health budget.

The controversial move would have led to cuts in services such as health visiting and school nursing.

During a public consultation earlier this year critics pointed out that it would be a false economy and increase burdens on other parts of the NHS.

In a statement the Institute of Health Visiting said: “We are beyond delighted to announce that Hampshire County Council has reconsidered its position to cut £2.09 million from its public health budget.

“In partnership, the Institute of Health Visiting and the School and Public Health Nurses Association came together as a ‘united voice’ and worked with practitioners, and across our stakeholder networks, to galvanise support to challenge these cuts.

“With some 3,000 responses from national organisations and individuals, two national petitions to ‘Stop the Cuts’, numerous blogs and a vocal social media challenge, the strength of feeling against these cuts was plain to see.

“We do not underestimate the difficult decisions facing councils across the country and want to thank Hampshire County Council for their openness about these challenges which really struck a chord nationally – this was never just a ‘Hampshire issue’ or a criticism of their proposals as an isolated case. Rather, if their dangerous suggested remodelling of services had gone ahead, then this would have potentially paved the way for other cash strapped councils to follow suit. We also recognise that Councils are being forced to make some very difficult decisions; robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer!”

One Hampshire health visitor, who asked not to be named, said: “If these cuts had gone ahead it would have devastated the service and really been the end of health visiting. It is a surprise. Everyone assumed it was a done deal.”

The county council is still proposing to make savings:

Substance Misuse services - £60,000 by continuing to provide an open access substance misuse service in Winchester from a more cost-effective venue;

Stop Smoking services - £168,000 by stopping ‘unsupported prescribing’ – reducing the number of prescriptions written by GPs for stop smoking medication and nicotine replacement therapy that are not accompanied by a support referral to Smokefree Hampshire. Evidence shows that the combination of both, leads to better long-term outcomes;

Sexual Health services - £8,000 by removing a duplicated HIV and syphilis self-sampling service.

Cllr Liz Fairhurst, county council executive lead member for adult services and public health said: “I would like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation. Their views, along with feedback from Public Health England (PHE) on use of Public Health ringfenced grant, means that the proposals originally shared with the public have been substantially altered including not pursuing Public Health School Nursing proposals. The scrutiny committee will now review the proposals in detail; then pass them to me, with any additional changes they may wish to recommend, for a final decision in November.”

It was anticipated that the county council’s Public Health function would need to contribute £6.8million of savings in 2021/22 towards the Local Authority’s overall budget shortfall. Just over £3.1million of savings have already been achieved through internal and external service transformation.

Following feedback from the consultation and subsequent discussions, it has been concluded that no further savings towards the £6.8million target are required from Public Health. Rather, the remaining saving requirement of £3.7million can be achieved through additional savings made within adult social care, as a consequence of a reduction in client numbers experienced during Covid.