By Jan Maw, Public Health Adviser at the Royal College of Nursing
At this moment in time thousands of public health nurses are left in limbo, seeing changes on the ground but with no real news or updates from the people making them. The RCN is concerned that significant changes are being made to public health staff, in the absence of the guidance promised by the Government.
In the Update and Way Forward policy statement in the middle of July, the Department of Health committed to producing updates on the five key areas of reform during the autumn. Just to be clear, this set of work is an overhaul to the way we tackle public health issues, it isn’t a list of mere tweaks and small changes. In case you aren’t aware, the five areas are:
- Public health outcomes framework
- Public Health England operating model
- Public health in local government and the director of public health
- Public health funding including shadow local authority allocations for 2012-13
- Public health workforce strategy consultation
Here at the RCN, we understand that the shadow budget allocations and consultation on the workforce strategy may not be released until 2012. What’s more, there is no sign of updates on the remaining three areas as 2011 draws to a close; meanwhile, RCN members are being affected right now.
Back in early November, the RCN welcomed the Health Select Committee’s report on Public Health; it recommended that uncertainty around the future structure and focus of public health in England must be resolved as quickly as possible. You can understand why we’re now concerned.
At the time, the RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter, commented that “Many public health nurses are currently in a state of limbo as they wait to see how proposed transfers to local authorities will affect their jobs and the services they offer to the public.”
While we understand that the issues requiring consideration are significant, nursing staff need clarity and deserve answers. On behalf of public health staff everywhere, I very much hope that 2012 provides us with more information, not only for the benefit of staff, but the patients who are so dependent on the care that they provide.