Public Health responsibility changes

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What has changed?
Public Health functions for our area previously located within the NHS moved to Cheshire West and Chester Council local authority responsibility on 1 April 2013.

What is Public Health?

Public health is concerned with the health of the entire population, rather than the health of individuals. This requires a collective effort; addressing prevention, treatment and care from a population perspective. It is about making sure that services are safe, effective, appropriate and accessible to the whole population.

What does Public Health cover?
Local authorities have been given new statutory duties across the three 'domains' of public health.

  • Health improvement - including reducing lifestyle related ill-health and inequalities in health, and addressing the underlying determinants of health.
  • Health protection - including ensuring that comprehensive plans are in place across the local authority, NHS and other agencies to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.
  • Health service improvement - by providing NHS Commissioners, including Clinical
    Commissioning Groups, with expert advice and support to improve and evaluate the quality and efficiency of health services in transferring to local government,

NHS public health teams will be bringing with them a set of specialist skills that include analysis and interpretation of population data and the local factors that impact on health. Combined with the rich data collected by local authorities about their residents, this has the potential to generate a deep understanding of the local population, their health needs and which interventions are likely to work most effectively to improve health. This information will be useful not only to local authorities, but also to health service commissioners within the NHS.

Public Health Commissioning
Public health are responsible for commissioning a range of services for the Cheshire West and Chester population. In August the Executive will be asked to approve a plan that will outline the forthcoming re-commissioning programme for some of the highest value services for:-

  • sexual health,
  • drugs and alcohol,
  • youth health
  • lifestyle services, such as smoking and weight management.

As well as having a general duty in relation to improving the health of their residents, local authorities will take on specific responsibilities for commissioning a long list of services and certain responsibilities will be mandatory:

  • Appropriate access to sexual health services
  • Plans in place to protect the health of the population
  • Public health advice to NHS commissioners
  • The National Child Measurement Programme
  • NHS Health Check assessment

Other responsibilities include:

  • tobacco control / smoking cessation services
  • obesity and community nutrition initiatives
  • increasing levels of physical activity in the local population
  • public mental health services
  • dental public health services
  • accidental injury prevention
  • population interventions to reduce and prevent birth defects
  • behavioural and lifestyle campaigns to prevent cancer and long-term conditions
  • local initiatives to reduce excess deaths as a result of seasonal mortality
  • local initiatives on workplace health
  • public health aspects of promotion of community safety, violence prevention and response
  • public health aspects of local initiatives to tackle social exclusion
  • local initiatives that reduce public health impacts of environmental risks

These programmes will not be nationally prescribed, enabling local flexibility on how they are commissioned and/or delivered based on local need.

Role of the Director of Public Health
The Act makes clear that each local authority must, acting jointly with the Secretary of State for Health, appoint an individual to have responsibility for its new public health functions, known as the Director of Public Health.
The Director of Public Health will act as the lead officer in a local authority for health and championing health across the whole of the authority's business.
The Director of Public Health as a public health specialist will be responsible for all the new public health functions of local authorities.
There will be a statutory requirement for the Director of Public Health to produce an annual report on the health of the local population and for the local authority to publish it.

Public Health in Cheshire West and Chester
We know that many people in Cheshire West and Chester enjoy long, healthy and active lives.
But we also know that some residents do not enjoy good health and longevity and there are significant communities and vulnerable groups who experience very high levels of ill health from birth to death.
With this in mind, the Public Health Team at Cheshire West and Chester will use their expertise to implement key actions and priorities for the next 12 months to enable them to work to improve health and wellbeing for local communities.

(This article has been written from a briefing note on Public Health changes issued by Cheshire West and Chester Council- Ed)