Council welcomes new public health role

Published: 3 December 2010

Local authorities will take control of public health services under new arrangements announced this week by health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Wandsworth has welcomed the move which will see councils take charge of ring-fenced budgets and given licence to set local priorities like reducing heart disease among the poorest residents.

Public health services are currently managed by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) which are being phased out as part of the Government's NHS reform programme.

Ministers believe that councils are ideally placed to direct public health initiatives as they have closer links to their communities and can influence a range of environmental factors affecting health, such as housing or unemployment.

Wandsworth Council and the local PCT have already appointed a joint Director of Public Health who will manage the transition over the coming months.

The Government's proposals are set out in a public health white paper - Healthy Lives, Healthy People. To mark its launch Mr Lansley met with Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister at Eastwood Children's Centre, Roehampton, where a range of public health initiatives are underway.

The health secretary praised the centre's work in improving health outcomes for local children and reiterated his belief that services will be more effective under local authority control.

Mr Lansley said: "Too often in the past, public health budgets have been raided by the NHS to tackle deficits. Not any more. The money will be ringfenced to be used as it should be - for preventing ill health.

"People's health and wellbeing will be at the heart of everything local councils do. It's nonsense to think that health can be tackled on its own. Directors of Public Health will be able to champion local cooperation so that health issues are considered alongside housing, transport, and education."

Cllr Lister said: "It makes perfect sense for councils to take the lead on public health. We know our communities well and can ensure resources are focussed on the most pressing needs. We can join up health initiatives with our social care, housing, leisure and environmental work to deliver a more complete and locally driven public health service.

"In Wandsworth we're keen to take on this role at the earliest opportunity. The transition is already underway and we are setting up a shadow Health and Wellbeing Board with the PCT and local GPs to integrate services and support GPs in their new commissioning role."

Director of public health for NHS Wandsworth and Wandsworth Council Houda Al Sharifi said: "It is no co-incidence that the secretary of state chose Wandsworth to launch the public health white paper, given our track record; teen-age pregnancy rates have almost halved, immunisation rates are increasing significantly and this year we have helped more smokers quit than ever before.

"We still have some entrenched problems such as the poorer outcomes for poorer people in Wandsworth.  The White paper is pushing us to work together and with local communities even more to address this and this is what we intend to do."

Picture: back row from left to right, local parent Sharon Griffin, Cllr Lister, NHS Wandsworth Chief Executive Amanda Philpot, Public Health Minister Anne Milton, Secretary of State Andrew Lansley, Chair of NHS Wandsworth Ian Reynolds and joint Public Health Director for Wandsworth Houda Al-Sharifi at Eastwood Children's Centre on Tuesday 30 November.

Front row from left to right, local parents Kimberly Wise and Karen Abbott.

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