A proposed new Section 2B of the NHS Act 2006 is to be introduced by Clause 7 of the Bill. The new functions of local authorities and the SoS with respect to the improvement of public health is set out as follows:

  1. Each local authority must take such steps as it considers appropriate for improving the health of the people in its area.
  2. The SoS may take such steps as he considers appropriate for improving the health of the people of England.

The steps that can be taken include:

  • providing information and advice;
  • promoting services designed to promote healthy living;
  • providing services or facilities for the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness;
  • providing financial incentives to encourage individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles;
  • providing assistance (including financial) to help individuals to minimize any risks to health arising from their accommodation or environment;
  • providing training for those seeking to work in the area of health improvement; and
  • making available the services of any person or any facilities.

Local authorities have also had transferred to them responsibility for the medical inspection and treatment, dental inspection and treatment and the weighing and measuring of school children, including school nursing services.

Scrutiny function of local authority

The local authority has retained its overview and scrutiny powers but with greater flexibility. Local authorities can decide how they operate their overview and scrutiny roles. They may choose to do this through their existing overview and scrutiny committee, or they may create a completely new committee for this purpose. Regulations will provide that local authorities in the discharge of their overview and scrutiny functions can request NHS bodies, GP consortia, NHS Commissioning Board and independent providers of NHS funded services to attend before them and provide information.

Joint Strategic Needs Assessment

Clause 176 of the Bill amends section 116 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 200. Local authorities together with the GP consortia that have a boundary within or overlapping the local authority’s have a duty to prepare a joint strategic needs assessment. They must then set out their joint health and wellbeing strategy for meeting the needs included in that assessment, including consideration of how s 75 arrangements could be used to meet these needs.

Health and Wellbeing Boards

The Bill sets out the duties and composition of Health and Wellbeing Boards. They will comprise elected members, Directors of Adult and Children’s Services and Public Health, a representative of Local Healthwatch and each relevant commissioning consortium. Their aim is to improve health and care services and the health and wellbeing of local people. The challenge is through the Board, to lead cultural and behavioural changes to support a joint approach to improving health and social care services. Health and Wellbeing Boards will be established from 2013 but will operate in shadow form from 2012. 2011/12 will be a transitional year. By March 2011 joint arrangements need to be in place to manage the transfer of £648m of primary care trust funding to social care activities benefitting health.