The Government has set out a policy statement that re-affirms its vision for a future public health service in Healthy lives, healthy people: update and way forward published on 14 July 2011. The vision builds on proposals set out in the November 2010 public health white paper Healthy lives, healthy people: our strategy for public health in England, the consultation and associated documents as well as the listening exercise.

The publication sets out progress in developing the new public health system, key points include:  

  • Local authorities and their directors of public health will have a role across all three domains of public health: health improvement; health protection and population healthcare services.
  • Public Health England will be established as an executive agency to provide greater operational independence within a structure that is accountable to the Health Secretary; and clear principles for emergency preparedness, resilience and response.
  • Local authorities will have mandated responsibility to provide public health expertise, advice and analysis to NHS commissioning bodies.
  • A “core public health offer” is to be provided by local authorities to the NHS.
  • The director of public health is expected to be of chief officer status and be directly accountable to the chief executive.
  • The Health and Wellbeing Board will bring the “whole system together at the local level”, “maximises opportunities for integration” and set the local framework for commissioning of health care, social care and public health.
  • Public health grants to upper tier and unitary local authorities are to be made in 2013/14 with shadow allocations for 2012/13 by March 2012.
  • Workforce – there will be continued development of a strong specialist public health profession and the wider public health workforce. A human resources “concordat” will be developed to support the effective transition of staff. This will be supported by the publication of a workforce strategy and a Public Health England People Transition Policy.  

This policy statement, while building on and developing the White Paper does not provide all of the detail about the public health ring-fence, the size of the overall pot, how the pot will be allocated and how the outcomes framework and health premiums will work in practice. However, a series of public health system reform updates has been scheduled for the autumn on the following:  

  • Public Health Outcomes framework;
  • Public Health England operating model;
  • operational design of public health in local government and the role of the director of public health;
  • public health funding; and
  • workforce strategy.

The formal transfer of responsibilities will not happen until April 2013 but it is expected that “significant progress” can be made through shadow and joint arrangements.