Just before the Conservative Party Conference I was invited to speak and chair a session at another Conference, the Annual PHE Conference where with Public Health Professionals, myself and fellow panel members discussed Health and Wellbeing Boards progress against backdrop of the Better Care Fund.
Caroline Tapster CBE who heads up the work programme of the LGA’s work on Health and Well Being Boards, and was formerly the Chief executive of Hertfordshire County Council spoke first. Then Jane Milligan who is the Chief Officer of Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group and finally we heard from Tim Baxter Lead on Public Health at the DoH.
Caroline reflected in this the second year of their establishment, HWBs are beginning to consolidate the partnerships they have developed. It is now time to take on fully their role as strategic leaders of the health, social care and wellbeing systems of their areas. Recent reports suggest that in some cases, boards are already grasping the challenge, but have more to do in making the step change required from wherever on the journey they are starting to become effective system leaders. How this is done will differ according to local circumstances and Jane spoke about how their board in Tower Hamlets are facing this huge challenge.
The Better Care Fund (BCF) has dominated the agenda for HWBs over the past few months and will continue to be a key focus but it is vital that this is seen within the wider context of reconfiguring services, the importance of the prevention agenda and the role of public health in moving forward with integration and continuing to deliver local priorities through Health and Wellbeing Strategies and Tim spoke about these issues from the DH perspective.
For my part I spoke about the interesting emerging picture around the Public Health spend, after all the scare mongering about Councils using Public Health monies for other things now its moved across. Beyond the flat Public Health allocation of £2.79 billion in 2015/16 (the same as last year), spending in Public Health is up some £150m. Information derived from DCLG Revenue Account Budget returns submitted by local authorities in England and published in July shows Councils plan to spend 6% (£150m) more on public health this year despite overall fall in local government spending. Figures show Councils rebalance towards higher priority needs with the headline figures spending on physical activity (children and Adults) increased investment of up to £78m this year compared with £43m last year not including the £905m councils are committed to spend on sport and recreation and the £797m spent on open space. Which is an extra £54m extra committed by Local authorities, above and beyond the grant received from the Department of Health. District Councils are also spending more with a commitment of £1.5m from their budgets to Public Health.
I concluded by saying that this increased spending is a testament to Councillors and Public Health teams who have come together to leverage the new environment. Public Health is back where it belongs and is having a greater impact than ever before.