In 2015 the House of Commons Health Committee launched an inquiry into the impact of the Health and Social Care Act reforms on public health post-2013. Our submission to the inquiry draws on and expands our previous work, updating it to take into account more recent developments.
- The transfer of public health functions and staff from the NHS to local authorities appears to have gone relatively smoothly.
- The NHS also has an important role to play in improving public health and needs to go further and faster to realise this.
- The Health and Social Care Act reforms have resulted in a renewed interest in the role of local authorities in improving the health of the populations they serve. The co-location of public health responsibilities with other local authority services represents a real opportunity for localities to take a population health perspective.
- The role of Public Health England needs to be clarified – in particular, in relation to its ability to challenge national government.
- The ability of local authorities to recruit and retain directors of public health continues to be an issue.
- The cuts to the local authority public health grant in 2015/16 and, more recently, those signalled by the Spending Review, make the job of improving the public’s health much more difficult.
- With less money devoted specifically to public health, every pound needs to work harder. Local and national government will need to consider using other levers, including regulation, taxation and pricing to support public health objectives.