The government has published their plans for Public Health in the White Paper: Healthy Lives, Healthy People and in the Health and Social Care Bill.
The white paper sets out an agenda for greater local influence over health matters which includes:
– giving local authorities the lead role on public health
– the appointment of Directors of Public Health , who will lead local developments. DPHs will be employed by local government but jointly appointed by local authorities and the secretary of state.
– providing for ring-fenced LA budgets to enable them to discharge their public health responsibilities
– making stronger incentives available for GP’s to become involved in public health issues.
-creating a new national service in the DH – Public Health England – to provide advice and expertise to local organisations
The core elements of the new system are included in the Health and Social Care Bill (introduced to parliament 19/1/2011) and subject to Parliament’s approval. The Bill also provides for the establishment of local health and wellbeing boards and for the national patient-voice body: HealthWatch England.
The White Paper signals a significantly enhanced role for local government in Public Health which could mark a radical shift in the way the public health agenda is developed and delivered. However, Council leaders have criticised it for centralising control, despite it purporting to empower councils. The Local Government Association warned that the White Paper represented a “swing to central control” of public health through the creation of Public Health England. The ADASS has been more positive but has also called for more clarity over how much of the estimated £4bn annual public health budget would be retained by Public Health England and how much devolved to councils.
The White paper is under consultation until 8th of March. Specific consultation questions are on: the role of GP’s in public health; how to extend and improve public health evidence (3 questions); and the regulation of public health professionals. Responses can be made online http://consultations.dh.gov.uk/healthy-people/healthy-people/consultation/intro/view