HC 1048-III Health CommitteeWritten evidence from Asmat Nisa (PH 172)

Public health is an extremely important function, and there is concern that there is a lack of adequate input proposed from public health within the NHS Futures Forum and associated work streams. This places a risk for the health of the public which may be seen as a lower priority without adequate public health specialist knowledge and representation in key areas of NHS work.

The current public health system is robust and “fit for purpose”. As public health professionals and leaders we are committed to improving the health and well being of people in the community, protecting their health and reducing inequalities through already established and well developed partnerships with local authorities, and other key stakeholders such as businesses, voluntary and community organisations. We need to be focussing on building and strengthening existing partnership work to deliver an excellent public health system. The proposed reforms would de-stabilise effective public health and undervalue the specialist trained public health workforce and undermine existing partnership work.

As part of the proposed reforms, we believe that the following should be an integral part of the reforms to create a meaningful public health function that is “fit for purpose” in future society.

The three key areas of public health would function most effectively if they remain together within Public Health England ie health protection (communicable disease control, emergency preparedness and environmental hazards), health improvement (through lifestyle and addressing health inequalities) and health services (ie planning and commissioning of services, audit and evaluation).

All specialist public health staff must be appropriately qualified in the field of public health. Qualifications must be recognised by the faculty of public health. Specialists should have access to recognised continuing professional development. There is a real risk of loosing a highly qualified public health workforce, should people choose to remain in the NHS and apply for other roles in the new NHS structure. Being employed by a Local authority does not seem like an attractive option and people generally feel they may lose NHS pension benefits that they currently have.

Public Health England must have some form of independence and should employ specialists in public health. Specialists could be seconded to other organisations.

Ring fenced public health budgets should be defined clearly and remain indefinitely ring fenced, so that the public health function remains protected and is not at risk from future cuts. This will help to reduce the risk of public health becoming marginalised in the future.

This is a crucial time for the NHS in light of the proposed changes and it is important that the view of public health organisations, experts and leaders is fully recognised and taken on board for the effective development of public health in the future.

June 2011

Prepared 28th November 2011