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Public health fears escalate

BMA lambasts ‘chaotic’ public health transfer

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The transfer of public health to local councils is “chaotic” and is being worsened by funding uncertainties.

This is the message from the British Medical Association which says its “concerns over public health funding” have escalated. It further warned that a “lack of insight into service organisation” could lead to cuts.

The BMA has cited a number of examples in the South East where it has expressed concern.

For example, NHS Surrey has told health unions that it cannot state whether existing PCT staff will transfer to exactly the same jobs when public health moves.

An NHS Surrey spokesperson said some PCT public health functions would move to the national organisation Public Health England and it was “not a straightforward ‘lift and shift’”.

“It seems [to be] that services that are currently delivered won’t be transferring over, and we are potentially going to lose highly skilled doctors who are specialists in public health,” warned BMA regional coordinator Glyn Rhys Jones.

Berkshire councils have admitted that their public health restructure could risk jobs, with many staff set to report to adult services instead of local authority chief executives.

BMA public health medicine committee member Dr Steve Watkins expressed concern over plans in Berkshire, which currently comes under the responsibility of NHS South of England.

Dr Watkins said these assistant directors needed to be made fully fledged directors of public health so they could have chief officer status and the seniority to do their jobs properly.

He also insisted that public health was not simply a subcategory of adult services.

“Management of public health by directors of adult services is not acceptable. They are going to be inappropriately managed,” he said.

NHS South of England (Central) deputy director of public health James Mapstone said the aim was to manage the transition “in a way to minimise any risk of redundancy”.

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