• UK Health Forum received over £1m in government funding in 2016-17
  • Received just £300,000 last year
  • Cuts contributed to charity making a loss

A public health charity providing “vital” services has been forced to close this year after losing most of its government funding. 

The UK Health Forum received around £300,000 in government funding last year, a fraction of the over £1m it received in 2016-17. In particular, it lost £200,000 in core funding from the Department of Health and Social Care, which the charity’s latest annual report described as a “significant” blow.

The funding cuts contributed to UKHF, which has been operating since 1984, making a loss last year. It reported a turnover of £1.4m against an expenditure of £1.7m.

The charity cut staff and moved to smaller offices to slash expenditure this financial year, so it would have enough cash to meet its liabilities when they came due for payment. Despite the belt tightening, the charity’s 31 March 2018 annual report was clear “the continued challenges that the charity will face and uncertainty around future funding streams” left trustees with no option but to close in May.

In a 12 February letter to its members, charity chief executive Alison Giles said: “I am writing with the sad news that the UK Health Forum will cease trading in early May 2019.”

She said decisions to reduce the size of the charity had stabilised it in the short-term but “the financial climate remains very tough and the trustees and I felt that the time was right to close the Forum and hand the baton on”.

UKHF was funded by statutory bodies like DHSC, as well as other charities and international bodies, such as the World Health Organisation, to develop evidence to support policies for preventing death and ill-health from diseases like coronary heart disease, obesity, cancer and liver disease.

Although the lost DHSC funding was partly replaced by a grant from the Health and Wellbeing Alliance – a partnership of voluntary-sector organisations managed by the DHSC, Public Health England and NHS England – this was worth only £60,000. 

The charity’s annual report also said there had been “fewer opportunities to bid for funding for policy work and the competition for non-government grants and tenders has increased as public sector funding has diminished”.

Nicola Close, chief executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health, described the closure as a “sad symptom of the current lack of funding in the system for public health and prevention”.

John Middleton, president of the Faculty of Public Health and a member of the UKHF, said: “We recognise that the UKHF was reliant on central government grants for much of its vital work and the removal of these funds is just another reminder that resources for public health improvement are being cut at all levels, and in all sectors.”

Professor Middleton added: “It is a wake-up call for the public health community to unite in its efforts to impress on government the need to protect and improve the public’s health.”

HSJ has approached the DHSC for comment.