New era for public health in Norfollk

A new era in public health begins next week with the transfer of the service to Norfolk County Council.

From April 1 the public health remit moves back across to the authority after almost 40 years.

The government announced in May 2010 that Primary Care Trusts would be abolished and replaced with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) supported by local area teams, Public Health England (PHE) and that public health functions would be delivered by local authorities.

Local authorities will receive a ring fenced public health grant, which is intended to address health inequalities and improve the health and wellbeing of local residents.

Lucy MacLeod, Joint Interim Director of Public Health, said: “Moving over to the County Council is a terrific opportunity. We already work closely with departments across the authority to promote health, prevent disease and prolong life on many different fronts. For example we are working with adult and community services to help people stay healthier for longer and stay in their homes for longer and on the whole adult care agenda. We will be commissioning the school nursing service and are working closely with colleagues in children’s services to develop the specification. We also work with County Council departments you might not expect us to, such as the fire and rescue service. Together we have developed and run a Firefighting Fit programme for young people in Great Yarmouth.

“Integrating with the County Council and the obvious synergy in a number of areas, will see public health in a very strong position to influence some of the wider factors that affect people’s health including, increasing physical activity, improving quality of life and ensuring children get the best start. One of the greatest challenges we face in Norfolk and in the country as a whole remains rising levels of obesity, another is health inequality across the county. These are just a couple of the priority areas where we continue to focus our efforts.”

Public Health covers a wide range of services including:

•Health Improvement: Raising awareness of healthy lifestyles and buying services that help individuals make decisions or changes that can positively influence their health.

•Healthcare Public Health: Providing NHS Commissioners with access to public health advice, information and expertise to support the commissioning of healthcare services.

•Health Protection: Protecting the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards (such as MRSA and ‘flu).

•Health Intelligence: Providing high quality data to better understand the needs of the local population before making key decisions to improve people’s health.

The Norfolk Health and Wellbeing Board* will also come into effect on April 1. The Board’s aim will be to lead and advise on work “to improve the health and wellbeing of the population of Norfolk by providing strategic leadership of, and oversight for, commissioning across the NHS, social care and public health”.

The organisations that plan and commission health and social care services have been working together over the last year to establish the board.