Public health directors in grip of health secretary
The health secretary will have the final say over the appointment and dismissal of directors of public health.
The Health and Social Care Bill, published today, states that local authorities will have to appoint public health directors jointly with the health secretary and that he or she must also be consulted before a director is dismissed.
This marks a change in wording from the white paper Liberating the NHS, which said public health directors would be appointed jointly by councils acting with the new public health service – to be called Public Health England – rather than by the health secretary.
The bill states: “Each local authority must, acting jointly with the secretary of state, appoint an individual to…be known as its director of public health.”
It continues: “A local authority may terminate the appointment of its director of public health. Before terminating the appointment of its director of public health, a local authority must consult the secretary of state.”
The bill says the health secretary will also have the power to direct the local authority to investigate and consider taking steps if he or she “considers that the director has failed or might have failed to discharge (or to discharge properly) the responsibilities of the director”.
The local authority is required to report back to the health secretary about any action taken.
Additionally the secretary of state will be able to instruct local authorities to give public health directors responsibility for extra functions, as it sees fit.
A memorandum document, published alongside the bill, explains: “The secretary of state would also have powers to specify additional functions to be performed by directors of public health and to give directions to a local authority to investigate or take other action when the director may be failing in respect of certain functions.”
The director of public health will be required to prepare an annual report on the health of the people in the local authority area, which “must” be published by the council.