CIEH response to the Wales Audit Office concerns that environmental health services are under increasing pressure

Publication Date: 28th October 2014

Subject: Environmental protection

The Wales Audit Office’s report: ‘Environmental health: delivering with less,’ published today shows that delivery of environmental health services in Wales is now at a tipping point, says the Chartered Institute of Environmental Heath (CIEH).

The report found that there has been a significant reduction in the resources available to environmental health over the last three years including an overall reduction of budgets by 4.2 per cent and a 16.4 per cent reduction in staff number.

Such drastic cuts mean the ability of these services to deliver national priorities, and to protect the health and wellbeing of the public and visitors to Wales has been called into question.

The report shows that the service in Wales punches well above its weight, costing less than half of one per cent of total local government spend but the services improve the lives and health of citizens, reduce inequalities and are central to the delivery of Welsh Government ambitions for a fair and healthy society.

The CIEH warns that what is clear from the report is that any further cuts to an already small service will compromise its ability to deliver and that the public will suffer directly while other bodies such as the NHS will be subject to further pressure in dealing with the adverse consequences of non-delivery of services.

Julie Barratt, director of The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Wales, said: ‘The report shows that people in Wales value environmental health services. They value the fact that we ensure that food is safe to eat, that housing is of good quality and that the air we breathe is clean. These are fundamental issues that are largely taken for granted. It is a matter of deep concern that such a vital service, one that through its actions saves the NHS money, protects the integrity of Welsh businesses and makes a huge difference to people’s lives is now at the point where further cuts will make it unsustainable.

‘We appreciate that these are difficult financial times, however it is also important to recognise that cuts to environmental health, a relatively small service that has already been cut to the bone, is a false economy. This is both in terms of financial savings and in terms of the adverse impacts reduction or withdrawal of services will have on those who receive or benefit from them. We call on the Welsh Government and on local councils to afford some protection to environmental health services to ensure that they can continue to deliver a service that is vital to health and wellbeing, appreciated by the public and by compliant businesses and represents value for money.’

The report also includes a number of recommendations, which include:

  • Improving efficiency and value for money by exploring options such as collaboration, outsourcing and charging for services
  • Revising best practise standard to align the work of environmental health with clear strategic priorities
  • Provide scrutiny chairs and members with the necessary skills and support to effectively scrutinise and challenge service performance
  • Improve engagement with local residents over planned budget cuts and changes in services
  • Clearly set out the expectations of council environmental health services under new housing and health legislation and agree how these new duties will be delivered.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • For media enquiries please contact Brian Cowan on 020 7827 5922 or 07721 456727 or email b.cowan@cieh.org
  • Julie Barratt is available for interview

About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):

  • The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved
  • The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is a leading provider of regulated qualifications in food safety and operates in over 50 countries
  • 15Hatfields is the organisation’s sustainable venue www.15hatfields.com
  • For more information visit www.cieh.org

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