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Public Health England framework should give professionals tools to improve public’s health

Professor Lindsey Davies, President of the Faculty of Public Health, has responded to the publication of two key documents on the new public health system for England.

The operating framework for Public Health England sets out how from April 2013, Public Health England will be a new executive agency of the Department of Health, providing expert advice and guidance across national and local government.  The fact sheet on public health in local authorities describes local authorities’ new health roles and sets out the responsibilities of directors of public health and their teams.  

Professor Davies said: “We have been waiting for a very long time for these documents and it’s good to see some decisions at last.  We still have concerns about how the public’s health will be protected under the Health and Social Care Bill. But there are promising indications in these documents that the government is listening and some of our members’ concerns have been heard and addressed. 

“Public health is often about getting support for life-saving decisions that are neither easy nor politically expedient. The smoking ban shows how lives and money can be saved when public health expertise is applied.

“That is why we are pleased that under the new system the Director of Public Health (DPH) will be one of the most senior officers in the local authority, with direct access to elected members and wide-ranging responsibilities for protecting and improving health and healthcare. 

“We are also pleased that, as a professional organisation, FPH will be involved in the process of employing DPHs and other public health specialists. This means the public can be confident that the right safeguards are in place when people who make life-and-death decisions about the public’s health are appointed.

“We also welcome the new commitment to transparency and high professional standards in Public Health England. The establishment of a board with non-executive members is a positive step towards the independence we have been seeking for Public Heath England. We would be much more reassured if there were an independently appointed chair able to hold the chief executive to account.         

“It is encouraging to see commitment for DPHs to have a 'clear leadership role' in health protection, including the emergency response, but we remain concerned about the lack of clarity on responsibilities for ensuring local outbreaks are managed effectively.

“There is still considerable work to be done by FPH, our members and other agencies to ensure that the statutory guidance and good practice described in these documents are put into practice.”

Written: 21/12/2011 , last modified: 06/02/2012