Wirral Council prepares to take over public health from NHS - town hall leader writes for the Globe (From Wirral Globe)
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Wirral Council prepares to take over public health from NHS - town hall leader writes for the Globe
Local government has a long history of promoting and protecting the public’s health dating back to Victorian times.
It was only after local government re-organisation in 1974 that the NHS took over most public health functions.
The Government is returning responsibility for improving public health to local councils. The switch comes into force in in two weeks' time.
The Globe invited council leader Cllr Phil Davies to explain what this major change will mean for the people of Wirral.
By Cllr Phil Davies
I AM delighted that from April 1, the local responsibility for public health will transfer from the NHS to the council.
Public health is about helping people to stay healthy and avoid getting ill, so this includes work on a whole range of policy areas such as immunisation, tobacco and alcohol, drugs recovery, sexual health, pregnancy and children’s health.
The budget for public health in 2013/14 is £25.7m This transfer represents a unique opportunity to change the focus from treating sickness to actively promoting health and well-being.
Some of the most significant improvements in our health and well-being started with actions taken by councils in Victorian times - building sewers, collecting rubbish and providing clean water supplies.
It was only in 1974 that the NHS took over most public health functions.
The Government is returning responsibility for improving public health to us because of our ability to shape services to meet local needs and influence the many factors that affect our health and well-being; how much we earn, our employment opportunities and the houses we live in.
We face significant local challenges to our health and well-being.
Rising levels of obesity, misuse of alcohol, high levels of sexually transmitted infections and continuing threats from infectious disease have a heavy cost both for us as individuals and our communities.
Every day of the year the council has direct contact with large numbers of residents.
A fully-integrated public health function in the council offers exciting opportunities to make each one of these contacts count to tackle these problems.
There are already lots of good examples in the borough where we have worked closely with the public health team.
These include action to reduce the number of babies born to teenage parents, promoting breastfeeding to give our babies the best start in life; work with trading standards to tackle under age tobacco and alcohol sales; the development of fitness trails with the parks team and the promotion of warm and safe homes with the housing team.
With the transfer of the public health team from the NHS we are looking forward to consolidating this work and creating new opportunities.
Bringing public health back into local government is about building a new, locally-led 21st century public health service, focused on our citizens.