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Speaking openly saves lives

The Health and Social Care Bill must give public health professionals the professional freedom to speak freely on difficult or controversial issues that affect everyone’s health, says the Faculty of Public Health (FPH).

Professor Lindsey Davies, President of FPH said: “If the public’s health is to be protected and improved, public health professionals must be able to deliver often difficult or unpopular messages without the restraints or rebukes of political limitations.

The long established independence of those working in public health has saved countless lives through their ability to speak openly, honestly and candidly on a wide spectrum of important health issues.  Their authority and independence ensure that they are not only listened to, but that people act on their advice.

The government is proposing to set up a new national organisation, Public Health England. It will give expert public health advice and support to everyone who needs it, including the public, the government, local authorities and the NHS. We acknowledge the potential benefit of this.

But if the Health and Social Care Bill is passed in its present form, Public Health England (PHE) will be part of the civil service. Its staff, as civil servants, will be constrained in what they can say in public. This makes no sense at all for a public health organisation. We have to be able to trust our experts to give us their professional advice - not the government’s political advice. 

PHE must be free to give its honest opinion. And  public health professionals, wherever they are employed, must be confident that they retain the professional freedom to voice their concerns, propose solutions and use their skills and training to keep everyone safe and healthy.         

Written: 23/02/2012 , last modified: 19/07/2012