Public health bodies

Local authorities have responsibility for improving the health of their populations and a new body, Public Health England has been set up.

What are they?

The Government’s strategy Healthy Lives, Healthy People shifts resources away from a purely medical health system to encourage the public to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

Local authorities now have a statutory duty to improve the health of their local populations and must each appoint a director of public health. 

Public Health England (PHE) has been set up to provide expertise to public health teams.  It is a national agency with a network of regional teams.

What do they do?

Directors of public health sit on the health and wellbeing board and provide information and advice to inform the joint strategic needs assessment and commissioning plans. They received £2.66bn in 2013/14 to tackle health inequalities and promote good health among local populations. They have a number of responsibilities including tackling obesity, smoking cessation, health checks, immunisation and sexual health services.

As part of wider government action on deficit reduction, the Department of Health has been asked to deliver savings of £200 million in the financial year 2015 to 2016 through reductions to the Public Health Grant to local authorities (LAs).  The Department of Health are undertaking a consultation exercise in outlining a range of possible options on how the £200 million savings might be spread across LAs and asks 3 questions on how they can be delivered most fairly and effectively.

What governs their decision making?

The Government’s Public Health Outcomes Framework sets out 66 health measures. Local authorities are paid a health premium for progress against these indicators which include obesity levels, rates of breastfeeding, smoking cessation and mortality rates from heart disease and strokes.

How are they structured?

Directors of public health and their teams are employed by the local authority although they work with PHE and other partners. PHE has four regional teams and 15 local centres to support the new system.