Public health makes case for council powers
28 November 2012
The importance of public health specialists has been stressed to MPs, as much of the workforce prepares to move to local authorities.
BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Penelope Toff told the Commons communities and local government select committee that there was still not a complete understanding of public health as a specialty.
She acknowledged that local government was aware of health improvement, but said health protection and the commissioning of healthcare services were not understood to the same extent.
Dr Toff said: 'I think that public health is "everybody’s business" is a clear message that has come out of this and I think that has reached most people, particularly councillors and many officers as well.
'I think the message that it is not [just] "anybody’s business" — that there might be something very important here that specialist public health has to bring to the table ... — has not necessarily been heard as clearly.'
The PHMC co-chair stressed the importance of ensuring the director of public health was 'on the top table' as a chief officer in local authorities, to maintain their independence and credibility and safeguard funding.
Former south of England director of public health Gabriel Scally agreed with the need to retain the power and influence of these roles.
He added: 'I hear … far too many reports of directors of public health potentially ending up as third in line reporting to other directors — directors of adult social care — and being seen as part of that.'