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1 April: a new era begins in public health

April 1 2103 signals the official start of a fundamental shift in the way health services are funded, run, planned and delivered. Much of the public health workforce in England moves from the NHS to local authorities and the new body Public Health England.

One positive aspect about this change is the creation of Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs). They offer opportunities for public health professionals to influence on wider public heath factors. HWBs should be the engine of local health policy: public health expertise is fundamental to ensuring they are successful.

We also welcome the potential for Directors of Public Health and their teams to support all local authority activity to maximise its benefit to local people's health. We very much hope that Public Health England will provide strong and effective national leadership on public health.

However, FPH remains concerned about the impact of this transition on people’s health, particularly because there is still a lack of clarity about how the health protection system is working.

However, without the right structures and systems in place, there is a risk that:
-    People with complex conditions like diabetes will not get the joined-up health care they should,
-    Young people and vulnerable adults will be at risk from abuse because safeguarding systems will not be effective, and
-    Immunisation programmes for children and other screening programmes will be disrupted.
Roles and responsibilities must be clear - both nationally and at the intensely practical local level - if the system is going to be safe. Otherwise lives could be at risk if outbreaks of infectious diseases and similar health protection matters are not dealt with efficiently.

Throughout this period of change and uncertainty, public health professionals will continue to work hard to protect and improve people’s health. Our members will do all they can to make the new systems work.

Written: 28/03/2013 , last modified: 12/09/2013