National Public Health England Conference

Public Health England logoJust 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.

A Different Prospective

PHEE PictureYesterday I was invited by the Public Health England, Network for Public Health Registrars to speak at a seminar they were holding in Cambridge entitled ‘Working in Local Authority and Navigating the Political Environment’. In the session I spoke at I was joined on the platform by Cllr. Dr. Tim Moore who was previously a Public Health professional and now Lib Dem City Councillor for the patch that has Addenbrookes in it, and Cllr. Kilian Bourke, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Councils’ Heath Committee who is also a Liberal Democratic, so no Labour Councillors, but hey never mind!

The event was held at Addenbrookes Hospital and not a stones throw from where I took my mum for the first 6 months of this year as she fought Cancer. I arrived early, as I was that way for another meeting in the morning, and so walked across past where I used to usually park my car and through the halls of the hospital on my way to the food court for lunch. As I did I reflected on two things, bizarrely I recalled an episode of the great American sit com Frazier where they visited hospital and the episode flashed back to all the events in that families lives that had been played out there and it struck me that a sad section of my families’ life was played out in the hotchpotch of buildings that make up this sprawling hospital only a few weeks before, which now seems another time altogether, time does seem to march relentlessly on as each of all our families stories are, in part, played out in such places.

Back to the matter at hand and all three of us spoke for about 15 minutes and then there was a Q & A session. Both Tim as a new Councillor, 3 months in post, and Kilian were really interesting speakers and I did remark at the start of my few words that it was worrying to find myself agreeing with Liberal Democrats and equally, going third, it’s not easy to find something to say when the best words has been said! I did find some words hopefully interesting about the challenges and more importantly if successful the opportunities ahead and I found the Q&A really thought provoking. As is often the case I think I came away challenged in my thinking and learning a great deal about the different prospective Public Health professionals face as they seek to deliver for the communities we serve and how they work effectively in this new political environment they find themselves in.

Public Health England – Still another Country?

A couple of weeks ago, after an SCC Cabinet meeting I travelled to Warwick University where I was invited to co-chair a session at the Public Health England Conference, as a member of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board, and perhaps some of the work I have been involved in with the transition of Public Health to local government in the Eastern Region over the past 18 months.

A couple of strange things happened at the conference, firstly I arrived on the Tuesday evening to be given my student digs room key and a map of how to get there, to be fair they were far from the rooms I remember in my youth, in fact it was a brand new block with en-suite and very nicely set out, save for one thing a TV, it’s a long time since I have been anywhere where there was not a telly and it felt, very strange!

After Dinner on the Tuesday evening I retired to my TV less room and tried to watch that nights England football match on my laptop but it was not the same.

Looking through the Agenda the even stranger thing that struck me was the complete lack of Local Government representation. Given the almost the entirely sector has now been moved across to their respective upper tier authorities it was a really shock to know there were only 3 or 4 Councillors involved in any form of presenting or speaking, yet the whole point of the move across was to leverage many of the things local government do, that have a direct impact of the public health of our country form housing to access to sports. Something to be worked on I think.

The session I co-chaired with Dr Yvonne Doyle from Public Health England and the session focussed on Community Resilience and my role was to say a few words at the start and sum up at the end. There were 7 really interesting speakers:

  • Mike Grady – Institute for Health Equity, University College London who spoke about Community resilience and health: a national perspective.
  • Dominic Harrison – Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council Community resilience and health spoke about delivery from within local government
  • Ian Rufus – Public Health England spoke about shifting the community resilience goalposts with social media
  • Aimee Stimpson – Wiltshire Council spoke about empowering communities to use intelligence and knowledge through local needs assessments
  • Amy McConville – TB Action Group Developing TB patient advocacy in the UK: TB Action Group and beyond
  • Kate O’Hara – Coventry City Council Communities feeling good and doing well in Coventry!
  • Alison Giles – Our Life Building community resilience: the Wellbeing Explorers’ citizen empowerment model

You can read more on the conference, presentation abstracts form the speakers and the session at:

https://www.phe-events.org.uk/hpa/frontend/reg/titem.csp?pageID=79727&eventID=173&eventID=173

I left to travel home thinking I need to discuss with the LGA the lack of involvement with the conference and find out how Local Government can be more involved in the future.

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.

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