Responding to media reports on issues surrounding funding for the Agenda for Change pay award, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "If we are serious about supporting prevention and services in the community, we need action on this. The effect on some community providers is potentially devastating. They need to be funded to pay their professional staff, as has happened for NHS services – without this many will find themselves with major shortfalls.
"Everyone claims they want to switch the focus, and for the first time, put serious money into supporting patients in the community, but we need actions to follow the words. We have had years in which public health services have been ignored and underfunded – now it looks as if they will face an even greater squeeze. That pressure could have serious implications for some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
"Our members have also made it clear that staff morale is being affected, which of course could affect retention and recruitment – and that is something we can ill-afford when there are already tens of thousands of vacancies.
"Are we serious about tackling health inequalities? Are we committed to delivering the Long Term Plan? If so, we need to fund fully services such as smoking cessation and sexual health, which are so critical – for now, they are at risk because the money is simply not there to cover the pay award."