Andrew Lansley has announced a “whole new approach” to public health in which, he says, the government will shape individuals’ behaviour and choice rather than control supply.
The health secretary, speaking at the UK Faculty of Public Health annual conference today, said: “My vision is for a new public health service which rebalances our approach to health, and draws together a national strategy and leadership, alongside local leadership and delivery and, above-all, a new sense of community and social responsibility.”
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He said there would be a “new responsibility deal between government and business built on shared social responsibility and not state regulation”, and a cabinet sub-committee on public health will “tackle the drivers of demand on the NHS”.
Mr Lansley announced a reorganised structure for local public health functions, which are currently based with primary care trusts. He said there would be a ring fenced public health budget and new authority for public heath directors.
Funds will be targeted at areas with the poorest health. Mr Lansley said there would be more detail in a white paper - separate to his proposals for the NHS - later this year.
Notably absent from the announcement was a proposal to rename the Department of Health to the Department of Public Health, as had been proposed by the Conservatives before the election.
It is also unclear whether public health directors will have strengthened links with local authorities.
Mr Lansley said: “For too long our approach to public health has been fragmented, overly complex and sadly ineffective. We want to free the system up – to create a framework which empowers people to make the changes that will really make a difference to the nation’s lives.
“Working with communities and schools to develop young people’s confidence and self-esteem. Seeing diet, exercise and education about drugs, alcohol and smoking not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end, to empower young people to take better decisions when young, so that they enjoy greater health and well-being though life.
“This is why we need genuinely local strategies, based in neighbourhoods and schools. We need to throw off the old ways and start seeing people and families as a whole, using local voluntary and charitable organisations more, cutting across boundaries, encouraging innovation, utilising the power of technology, joining up professions and budgets and putting the people – not the system – at the heart of the strategy.”
He said the system should be “accountable for results, not for processes”.
“We will not be dictating the ‘how’ when it comes to achieving better public health outcomes. But we will be very clear about the ‘what’ – what we want to measure and achieve, such as: increases in life expectancy, decreases in infant mortality and health inequalities, improved immunisation rates, reduced childhood obesity, fewer alcohol related admissions to hospital, and more people taking part in physical activity.”