Tories demand inquiry as DoH's advertising budget grows tenfold

The Department of Health has seen a tenfold increase in its ad budget since Labour came to power, new government figures have revealed.

The annual spend on health campaigns has soared from £2.04 million in the 1997-98 financial year to £22.9 million so far in the current financial year, which ends in March.

The Conservative Party has demanded an inquiry into the rise. Liam Fox, the shadow health secretary, said: "Even for a government so obsessed with spin and self-promotion, these figures are staggering." He said Labour should spend the money on tackling health problems.

Fox added: "We entirely recognise the importance of useful expenditure to promote better health and the interests of patients, but with the NHS in disarray, it's hard to see how such expenditure can be justified."

David Lammy, the junior health minister, said one reason for the rise was that the DoH had taken over the anti-smoking campaign, previously carried out by the Health Education Authority. The department had spent £54.53 million on advertising and publicity on smoking in the past three years.

Lammy said new campaigns under Labour included sexual health, immunisation, social worker recruitment, tuberculosis awareness, walk-in centres and mental health.

In 1996-97, the final year of the last Tory government, the department spent £2.5 million on ads. This fell to £2.04 million in Labour's first year. Spending on other publicity has risen from £4.58 million in 1997-98 to £18.04 million in the current year.