Uncertainty shrouds the future of public health. Or so it seems if the responses of the 1,160 Faculty of Public Health members, who took part in FPH’s survey on the NHS White Paper, are anything to go by.
But despite the many question marks around the proposed reorganisation, FPH’s specialist public health members still manage to be pretty damning. Nearly 40% of respondents doubted the White Paper would have a positive impact on population health. Furthermore, the majority (38.3%) believed that the proposed new structures would offer worse or much worse value for money. Many highlighted the fact that the healthcare public health strand of the specialty was simply ‘forgotten’, with 56.9% saying that public health as a whole wasn’t sufficiently covered.
There’s also drive and energy out there – public health teams are proud of their expertise and skills, and know their input is vital to the communities they work in around the country. The independent advocacy role of the director of public health was one area they were ready to defend. 98.3% thought that the DPH should be free to report objectively on the health impact of local policies. And 91.5% said the DPH should report independently on the population’s health.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Despite the fact that no-one has mentioned the plans to change the ‘Department of Health’ to ‘Department of Public Health’ for a while now, the public health workforce does seem quietly hopeful that the reorganisation will create a better and more efficient national public health service. The Coalition Government’s apparent commitment to public health hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Public health specialists are clearly keeping an open mind while waiting for the uncertainty to lift. But their hope, energy and loyalty should not be taken for granted. Nearly half (46.8%) of the respondents thought that the changes and uncertainty would mean fewer trainees applying to work in public health. If they are right, the future of public health – and the public’s health – is on very shaky grounds indeed.