Consultation on new public health agency begins

Public Health Scotland consultation includes possibility of ‘at least partial’ co-location with local government

Wednesday 29th May 2019

The formation of a national public health agency for Scotland moves a step closer as the Scottish Government launches a consultation on the new body, which will be up and running by April 2020.

Public Health Scotland will bring public health expertise that is currently spread across different parts of the NHS into one body.

The newly-published consultation document commits to exploring ‘at least a partial move from NHS premises’ to sharing spaces with community or local authority public health workforces.

Joe FitzPatrick, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health, says the proposed reform will ‘consolidate and strengthen our existing public health assets,’ allow for more preventative approaches and ‘ultimately help reduce demand and financial pressure’ across the NHS.

It’s hoped the consultation, which is open until the 8th July, will kickstart a ‘genuine dialogue’.

Public Health Scotland will be created as a new special health board with the aim of simplifying public health arrangements across the country.

Currently, different groups in Health Protection Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and NHS Scotland’s information division, as well as teams in local government, all have public health responsibilities.

‘Consolidating the national public health functions into a single body allows for a new, single public health brand and identity, with revitalised leadership,’ the consultation document states.

It continues: ‘By including the national data and intelligence function within the new body, we ensure that all public health activity and performance measurement is brought together in one place, providing a basis for innovation and ambition around our digital capability more generally.’

There is also a clear ambition for effective links between local government and community or third sector groups, as well as with other parts of the health service.

This will include the possibility of relocating Public Health Scotland staff out of NHS offices and into premises with ‘community, local and national’ partners.

The Scottish Government says this is a recognition that Public Health Scotland will be ‘only be one part of a complex system that can influence health and wellbeing’.