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Districts given 'vital' public health role

Corin Williams10/10/2012 - 13:00

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Health and Social Care Bill
Health and Social Care Bill

The Department of Health (DoH) has said upper tier local authorities taking on public health responsibilities will be supported by district councils’ environmental health expertise.

In guidance released this week the DoH clarified the role of local authorities in the new public health system.

It said lower tier and unitary authorities would maintain their existing health protection functions.

David Kidney, CIEH head of policy, said the DoH was learning how local authorities worked and the ‘tremendous potential’ of their environmental health services.

He added: ‘Better still, the guide to health protection and local government is well informed about environmental health’s contribution to the existing effective arrangements and says that environmental health teams will play a vital role in local surveillance.

‘Building on these pointers, our members need to make connections with senior councillors and officers, including directors of public health and put forward the case for environmental health at the heart of their new public health service.’

The guidance also outlined the role of the public health director, who will be based at local authority level.

Public health directors will be given powers under the Licensing Act 2003 giving them the ability to make representations about licensing applications.

Peter Coulson, editor of Licensing Review, said primary care trusts and local health boards were included as ‘responsible authorities’ last year.

He added: ‘Next April, these functions will be transferred to the primary health function of local authorities, hence the reference in the document. It does not mean that directors of public health take on overall responsibility for licensing— that remains with whichever department the district council chooses to carry out this role as licensing authority.’

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