The amount of taxpayers' money spent of schemes to improve public health has been revealed in a report by The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA).
According to the report published on Wednesday (November 1), public health authorities across the country are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on "bad value for money" healthy lifestyle schemes.
The TPA report examines the spending and delivery of four public health initiatives in 171 UK public health authorities from 2015 to 2016.
The data was obtained through freedom of information requests (FOI) to 171 local public health authorities.
Chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, John O'Connell, said: "Taxpayers have had enough of being told what to eat, drink and how to spend their leisure time.
"Those who do want to make lifestyle changes are free to do so if they choose - there is no need for bureaucrats to blow our taxes on good behaviour schemes, especially if they are not measured for cost effectiveness.
"Education and information will mean that people can make up their own minds without the need for expensive and meddlesome projects."
West London health authorities were among the top spenders on public health initiatives nationally.
National averages spent on public health programmes in 2015 to 2016:
The total average spend for each of the 171 public health authorities assessed in the report was £1,679,721.
Stop smoking programmes
On average, each public health authority spent £718,634.
Physical activity programmes
These programmes were intended to to encourage residents to take up sport on a regular basis.
This amounted to £484 for each person who subsequently took up sport at conclusion of the programme.
The west London borough of Richmond paid the highest per person for their physical activity programmes, spending on average £2,212 for each person who subsequently took up sport.
The average spent on schemes to reduce the weight of participants amounted to £912 for each person who lost weight.
Alcohol intake reduction programmes
Public health authorities in the report spent an average £1,059,136 on programmes to reduce people's alcohol intake.
This amounted to £4,601 for each person who reduced or stopped their consumption of alcohol.
Kensington and Chelsea health authority spent the most on alcohol reduction schemes.
West London boroughs included in the report
Brent's health authority's current net expenditure on public health initiatives is £2,403,079.
From 2015 to 2016 it spent £1,214,538 on alcohol intake reduction schemes, £49,277 on reducing obesity in the borough, £507,214 on promoting physical activity and £632,050 on stop smoking programmes.
According to the report the borough of Ealing spent a total £601,031 on public health schemes last year.
Its current net expenditure on alcohol schemes was not disclosed in the report but it did show that 476 of the 826 who accessed the scheme successfully reduced their alcohol intake.
No schemes to reduce obesity in the borough were commissioned but £23,031 was spent on encouraging people to increase their physical activity levels.
Ealing health authority spent £578,000 on stop smoking schemes.
Harrow's health authority spent £197,000 on public health schemes from 2015 to 2016.
The sum spent on schemes to reduce alcohol intake reduction was not available in the report nor were figures showing the scheme's effectiveness, but it was revealed that 686 people accessed the services in that period.
No figures were available for how much Harrow spent on schemes to tackle obesity or to encourage physical activity.
The report shows that £197,000 was spent on encouraging residents to quit smoking.
Hounslow health authority spent £709,090 on public health schemes from 2015 to 2016.
The amount it spent on alcohol intake reduction is not available in the report but it does show that of the 360 people that accessed those services, 140 reduced their alcohol intake.
The local health authority commissioned no initiatives to reduce obesity but spent £112,899 on increasing physical activity.
£596,191 was spent on stop smoking schemes.
In Hillingdon a total £588,600 was spent on public health.
Figures spent on reducing alcohol consumption were not available.
£19,200 was spent on tackling obesity and £436,700 on encouraging exercise.
£132,700 was spent on stopping people smoking.
In Westminster a total £3,434,200 was spent on schemes to improve public health.
£1,439,200 of that sum went on reducing residents' alcohol intake.
Westminster spent £967,000 on programmes to tackle obesity and £340,000 on encouraging more exarcise.
A whopping £688,000 was spent on stopping residents from smoking.
Hammersmith and Fulham
Hammersmith and Fulham's health authority spent a total £1,915,800 on public health programmes.
A eye-watering £816,800 was spent on schemes to reduce alcohol consumption compared to £22,000 spent on tackling obesity.
£350,000 was spent on encouraging physical activity and £727,000 on stop smoking schemes.
Kensington & Chelsea
London's third wealthiest borough, Kensington and Chelsea spent a total £2,245,200 on public health programmes.
It spent a vast £1,105,200 on schemes to reduce alcohol consumption, which according to the report, makes it the nation's biggest spender on programmes of that type.
£419,000 was spent on tackling obesity in the borough and £209,000 on encouraging exercise.
The health authority spent £512,000 on encouraging residents to quit smoking.
Richmond was the only west London borough included in the report that didn't measure its public health schemes for cost effectiveness.
It was also the biggest spender on physical activity programmes, with an average £2,212 spent on each person who subsequently took up sport.
Bodies in charge of public health spending in London and England have slammed the TPA reported and defended spending of healthy lifestyle schemes, describing them as "vital".
Director of health improvement at Public Health England, Professor John Newton, said: "Public Health functions in local government are valuable in their own right and deliver savings for public services and for society by helping people quit smoking, eat better and stay healthy.
"Smoking cost the NHS £2.6 billion in 2015 - for every £1 invested by councils, over £11.38 is saved over the lifetime of a smoker who quits.
"Local councils know how to use their resources to good effect, and it’s right that they decide what is best for their areas working together with the people they serve."
Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Linda Thomas, said: "Public health services are playing a vital role in improving the health of children, young people and adults, reducing the need for treatment later down the line and easing the pressure on the NHS.
"Councils follow expert guidance and internationally-renowned evidence to inform their commissioning decisions and measure effectiveness of the public health services.
"It is indisputable that preventing ill-health is a far better use of taxpayers’ money than treating illnesses.
"The TPA’s methodology is fundamentally flawed by failing to take into account that different populations have different needs and costs.
"It is also wrong to ignore the benefits of public health spending in the context of costs to society.
"According to a systematic review of the available evidence, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, every £1 spent on public health saves on average £14 and in some cases, significantly more than that.
"About a third of all deaths could have been prevented by lifestyle changes undertaken at an earlier time of life.
"If this avoidable ill-health could be reduced the savings would be considerable. Investing in prevention ultimately saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services and ultimately improves the public’s health."
You can read the full TPA report here.
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