Over 2014 the CIEH conducted a comprehensive survey asking environment health managers across the country how austerity cuts have impacted their services.
The Environmental Health Workplace Survey 2014/15 is part of the wider Environmental Health Futures Programme exploring how best to support the future of the profession.
The survey also looks at how the recent changes to public health delivery have impacted on the profession.
The following 10 headline issues reveal some of the difficulties faced by EHPs in the current climate.
- The survey identifies an almost 11 percent reduction in qualified environmental health professionals (EHRB certificate or registration or REHIS diploma) with an overall reduction of 12 percent in all environmental health staff.
- After taking account of inflation, the average budget for environmental health services has fallen in real terms by 6.8 percent between 2013-14 and 2014-15.
- Those authorities that were able to estimate their budget for 2015-16 expected a further fall in real terms of 30 percent.
- London boroughs have experienced the largest cuts – an average of 20 percent over the past two years.
- The most common services to be stopped in response to budget cuts over the past three years was pest control (71.9%). Others curtailed included: business support; health promotion; dog warden and contaminated land investigation. Out-of-hours services have also been cut back and changes are being made to the risk prioritisation of food and health and safety inspections to reduce service demands.
- Pest control was frequently cited as the service most likely to be stopped over the next three years. Other services ‘at risk’ include non-mandatory aspects of housing regulation; drainage; air quality and climate change/ green activities. Food safety and health and safety inspections were also vulnerable.
- Almost half of the respondents (47.4%) stated that the resources were only just adequate to provide a basic statutory service, left no contingency, and that any further cuts would compromise service delivery.
- Though 9 percent of the respondents said they planned to increase staff numbers, 55 percent replied that further reductions were planned to the number of environmental health staff over the next 12 months. This was split almost equally between those expecting the need for forced redundancies and others expecting reductions to be achieved through natural turnover and retirements.
- Fifty-five percent of managers with in-house service delivery said the impact of the cuts on staffing was ‘considerable’. Losses in staff were reported as including removal of middle manager tiers and loss of older more experienced staff.
- Just under half of the managers interviewed said that they were moving to a more generic rather than a specialist EHP model with some providing a fully integrated cost-cutting service.
The CIEH is planning to build on these survey results by surveying environmental health managers working within the private and other employment sectors.