Set up in 2003, the nine Regional Public Health Teams have had a long and successful history of providing regional leadership for public health priorities while remaining flexible and responsive to change. Led by regional directors of public health they have worked with local areas to deliver public health priorities. The teams’ wide-ranging roles have included:
- managing and co-coordinating health protection and emergency planning functions in the regions;
- designing, developing and maintaining public health networks;
- addressing health inequalities and tackling the social determinants of health, for example, working with transport, environmental health, planning and housing;
- supporting and collaborating PCTs, local government, the voluntary sector and the private sector on a range of public health priorities.
The approaches to and experience of this regional work can be harnessed by Public Health England to provide a strong foundation to build on as the new public health system is implemented.
Tackling the wider Determinants of poor Health and inequalities
Regional teams have been well positioned during their time in the former nine Regional Offices of Government to work with other government departments to build a strong health component into regional programmes. These cover areas such as education, social care, the economy, transport, planning, housing, the environment and regeneration. Tackling the fundamental root causes of poor health and inequalities has been vital to underpinning effective local public health action over recent years. The wider public health role of the Regional Public Health teams has been important in supporting local partnerships to improve health.
Protecting the public’s health
A crucial role has been ensuring that there are appropriate high-quality health protection arrangements in place in all locations in the regions and managing and coordinating the health aspects of the Government’s responses to emergencies and disasters.
Leadership and development
Regional Public Health Teams have played an important role in developing and mentoring the public health function in their regions, working with local directors of public health and wider stakeholders. A key feature of this has been active involvement and oversight of the design and running of public health networks related to key priorities such as obesity, tobacco, alcohol, children and young people and workplace health.
Working with the SHAs and other professional bodies, the regional teams have played a significant role in supporting capacity building, training and development and interprofessional learning at local level.
Knowledge and Intelligence
Regional leadership for the Public Health Observatories (PHOs) has been a key role. The Regional Public Health teams and the PHOs have played an important role in developing and analysing data, making public health information readily available to a wider audience and aligning and integrating intelligence systems across government departments and other organisations. Examples include developing closer links with cancer registries, widening access to drug misuse databases, and a role in the analysis and dissemination of infectious disease surveillance data. At a local level, public health staff have been supported and effectively linked to the PHOs.
Communications and social marketing
Through supporting and enabling improved communications systems across the NHS, public health and social care and supporting social marketing campaigns such as Change4Life, Regional Public Health Teams have played a significant role in enabling robust communications on a range of issues, as well as providing local and national media with examples of local case studies and good practice.
Managing and assessing performance/clinical standards
Regional Public Health Teams have supported SHAs in performance improvement activity with PCTs, NHS trusts and workforce development teams, and provided professional advice on clinical governance and serious incidents.
Regional public health teams have been able to:
- Support and enable health improvement and health protection activity at the local level working with PCTs, local authorities and non-governmental agencies to focus on tackling health inequalities
- Focus on addressing the wider determinants of health
- Develop improved team working and networking across a range of organisations
- Strengthen partnerships locally and nationally across government and wider stakeholders
- Maintain quality public health networks of skills, knowledge and experience in significant areas of public health according to local needs and circumstances to provide public health expertise which may not be available in every PCT
- Marry ‘top down’ policy with ‘bottom up’ implementation
- Work across professional boundaries to pool expertise and skills; avoid duplication; share good practice; manage public health knowledge and support learning and professional development
- Support the development of individuals, organisations and the whole system to help deliver improvements for patients and the
- Have an improvement role with the NHS
- Maintain public health momentum during the transitional period and lead with SHAs on ensuring a ‘safe landing’ of public health functions to local government in April 2013
In the new system, the role of the regional tier of PHE will be different from that of the Regional Public Health Teams. For example, there will be no performance management role. But they will continue to provide expert public health support and advice to a wide range of partners across the three domains of public health.