Funding for a programme aimed at preventing serious ill-health in Scotland’s most deprived communities has been almost halved for 2015/16.
Scotland’s health boards have been allocated £6.5 million of funding for the Keep Well programme for 2015/16, compared with £11 million for the previous year.
The programme is designed to tackle health inequalities across Scotland by targeting those at particular risk of preventable serious ill-health, including conditions such as coronary heart disease and diabetes.
Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume said: “The Scottish Government must explain why they have slashed funding for this preventative programme.
“People from the poorest backgrounds are almost twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease compared to those from the least deprived backgrounds.
“Yet the SNP have nearly halved its funding from £11 million to £6.5 million. We need to know why this cut has been made and where the money is going if it is not to prevent people at risk of coronary heart disease.
“For too long, Scotland has suffered with the unwanted tag of being the sick man of Europe.
“This is a backwards step which could undermine the efforts of health boards to prevent and improve the health of people from the poorest backgrounds.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “NHS boards are embedding lessons from the Keep Well programme into their mainstream activities to reflect the differing needs of their local communities.
“We’re working on strengthening partnerships between primary care and community-led services through the Deep End GP practices and the Links Worker programme to help address the fundamental issues that keep people in poorer health.”