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Ministers clarify councils' public health duties

By Vivienne Russell | 15 July 2011

Upper-tier councils in England will take over responsibility for providing access to sexual health services, the national child measurement programme and the NHS’s health check assessments, ministers have confirmed.

Following a three‑month consultation on the public health white paper Healthy lives, healthy people, the Department of Health yesterday issued a policystatement offering further clarification of its plans. This included more detail on the role of local government, which is to assume new public health duties.

Local authorities will be required to appoint a director of public health, who will have a duty to ensure there are plans in place to protect the health of the local population. The statement says the director of public health should be of chief officer status, reporting directly to the chief executive.

Councils will also be responsible for ensuring NHS commissioners receive the public health advice that they need.

On funding, the policy statement says resources need to be ring‑fenced to ‘promote a strategic approach to spend on prevention’. But details of how funds will be split between local authorities, NHS commissioners and the budget of a new national body, Public Health England, are still being worked out.

Public health grants for upper‑tier councils will be made for the first time in 2013/14, and shadow allocations for 2012/13 will be made by the end of the year.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘A new public health system with strong local and national leadership is essential to help save more lives, improve people’s health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities that exist across the country.

‘Based on an understanding of the wider determinants of health, the new system will focus on the outcomes we want to achieve, with local authorities able to tailor services to best meet the needs of their communities.’

He added: ‘The white paper generated real enthusiasm for a new approach to public health, which we will now develop, with local authorities leading local health and wellbeing strategies.’

A Local Government Association spokesman told Public Finance, that while local authorities were ‘broadly in favour’ of the public health reforms, there was still a lack of clarity about funding and where some staff groups would work.



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