Public health teams in English PCTs are getting ready to move into Local Authorities, representing a return of the major public health professional resource to local government after over thirty years in NHS organisations.
This transition heralds significant opportunities for public health professionals to be closer to where the action is in terms of the determinants of health that Professor Sir Michael Marmot and his team at the Marmot Review point out so powerfully.
With any major organisational change there are opportunities and threats on a number of levels. There will be opportunities for public health people to get closer to the real leverage on social determinants of health, yet there may be fewer opportunities to influence NHS commissioning. These opportunities and threats can be applied to both population health and to the public health profession.
We at PHAST believe there are significant learning and development needs across the system as a result – if we as a society are to reap the benefits presented by the transition. These apply to varying degrees as some public health teams have been working very closely with local government, and have been based within local authorities, whilst others have had less close relationships.
Wherever they are coming from in terms of recent history, public health professionals will need to emphasise the art of their public health practice, within organisational cultures which may be unfamiliar to them, and within which their ability to influence strategic direction will change. If local authorities are to take advantage of this transition for the benefit of their populations, their own people, from elected members, to senior officers and other staff, may have development needs in terms of building an awareness of public health across all its domains, from health protection, to health service improvement and commissioning, to health improvement.
To respond to these contextual factors, we are able to offer the following support: