Public Health England – a Vision Event no less!

Today I was asked to speak at the Public Health England Vision Event at the University Arms hotel to a packed ballroom of Public Health Professionals and Local Government Officers from across the Region. There was a fare few Councillors and fellow Cabinet members there as well which I thought was every encouraging given the scale of the agenda before us on Public Health.

I was billed on the opening session and platform with Dr. Anne McConville, Acting Regional Director of Public Health East of England who chaired the event and who introduced the opening session, next up was Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive Public Health England, who spoke of his and Public Health’s challenges over the coming year as he builds his team about him. For the professionalos in the room he was clearly the star attraction for the day as he is the key person in articulating the degree to which Local Directors of Public Health will or will not get flexibility in their approaches and priorities.

Next up was me and following Duncan is not an easy slot but I hope I engaged then as I spoke to a PowerPoint presentation about the progress of Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board, our Health and Wellbeing Strategy key priorities and a little about working with Councillors. I opened with a line about them all being frightened of councillors and how we might interfere and about our only qualification was getting elected! Albeit what they might find is those that achieve cabinet positions, maybe know how to work with professionals and could even be useful in how to get those difficult messages out there about smoking less, drinking less, eating 5 a day and taking more exercise or is that just what my doctor says to me!

Next up was Graham Farrant Chief Executive of Thurrock Council who spoke about the challenges of his area. Then all 3 of us took part in a 20 minute open Q&A session and what struck me was a question/statement from Professor Christine Hill from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health who made a plea for decisions to be made based on evidence and I spoke of that is soemthing to be thought about as Councillors can fall intot he trap of hearing something from three people in the street and then actign on it, a habit I and I suspect others must change!

After lunch John Wilderspin, National Director for the Health and Well Being Board Implementation spoke and fortunely his national picture seemed to accord with our Suffolk one more or less but what is very interesting is how they are beign allowed the space to develop organically something I have discuss a few times with John as we have met each other at a few different conferences and workshops on this subject; I have even suggested that the freedom is unusual for the Department of Health!  but someone once said with Freedom comes great responsibility, and we have to rise to the challenge and get this right.

The rest of the day was jam packed full of examples of projects being undertaken and discuss on the issues as Public Health integrates into Local Government and I think I and my team of senior officers that attended came away with a far better sense of the work going on across the Eastern Region and that the point of spending time at a conference is to then take that information back and discuss the direction in light of the learning and that is precisely what we will be doing over the coming weeks.

NHS Learning set day

Yesterday I attended the 3rd plenary day of the NHS Learning set as we design products, that’s briefing papers to you and me on emerging best practice and what each group thinks about the Health and Well Being Boards.

The first session was with my Learning set B2 – Collaborative Leadership to discuss the day and who would be doing what, I agreed to man the stand for a stint, where I talked to cohorts members about the products we are developing around top tips for people from the former PCT s, for Doctors about Councillors and for Councillors about Doctors; sounds simply but a lot so hard work went into the design of what to say and what not to say from each side of the fence.

The opening plenary session was opened by Cllr. Gareth Bernard to give t that LGA link, I know Gareth from my early days as a Councillor when we were both on the Leadership Centre Next Generation Year 1 programme together. He was joined by John Wilderspin National Director of HWB Boards Implementation who I had a long chat with a couple of weeks previous at the Kinds Fund event looking at a self-assessment tool for HWB Boards. Next up was David Behan, Director General of Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships – Department of Health, what a title. I have met with David a couple of times when a group of us meet with him and Paul Burstow MP to lobby about the vital nature of the Dilnot proposals. It can be quite a small world somestimes!

David spoke about the learning that was emerging and one of the things that truly stuck in my mind was his comment that it would be easy for the HWB Boards to slip into a comfortable scrutiny place rather than the place where true reform and change is driven; It struck me  how very true this is and I have spoken of the need for Healthwatch and upper tier authority Health Scrutiny function to fulfil those roles and for the HWB Board to ban anything that looks remotely like it from their agenda’s!

The rest of the day was a string of workshop sessions about the learning across the county and it struck me that on each subject area there was a genuine desire to succeed and a common thread to effect real change. Not to just become another committee of the upper tier authority, this is the real challenge before us to actually redesign the most sensitive eco system in this country!, no small order at all.

Health and Well Being Boards Tool Kit

One of the most interesting thinks I am involved in at the moment is the thinking behind the Health and Well Being Boards.

I am a part of the NHS National Learning Set work and sit in the Collaborative  Leadership work stream and we regularly come together to work on what in the NHS are called products which in the Local Government world are simply called papers and tools.

Whilst there is a great deal of controversy about the various aspects of the Health reforms; the one element that has not has a word of criticism is the Boards as I think everyone agrees they are going to be extremely important in the way in which the health and social care system improves.

As we roll out the work that will take us the better part of a year’s worth of meetings, virtual meetings and a number of workshop days I will post these on my blog for anyone interesting to go and have a read.

Yesterday I was invited to The King’s Fund, to take place in a slightly different day as the LGA and NHS do a body of co-creational round ‘Designing a Development tool for Health and Well Being Boards’.

The day was opened by John Wilderspin who effectively leads for the Department of Health on this important subject and during the course of the day we heard from a wide range of professional setting up Boards and from great thinkers such as Richard Humphries from The Kings Fund who speaks with great wisdom on how we move things forward. For my part I was one of only two Councillors there and it was a privilege to feed in some of the thinking on the Local Government side of things from a Councillor prospective.

At times this whole agenda seems a bit like the Hadron Collider in the two worlds are most definitely colliding and the learning about the other is quite fascinating. Essential I think it’s fair to say we all think that something amazing might just come of it but are not absolutely sure what yet.


There is no doubt that in social care we need to need to do things differently and that’s why I presented a new vision and strategy to the Cabinet in Suffolk in February and a big part of this is how we work better with Health colleagues and design a system for the journey the journey all of us will go on at some point in our lives as we need help for our Doctors, Consultants, Community Nurses and social care providers.

To be in at the very start of the journey is quite something and I hope my tiny contribution to the learning and shaping is of some benefit.

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