The Health Bill represents a “danger to the public’s health” and should be dropped, despite government insistence that public health is one of its priorities, a group of specialists has claimed.

The group, called the Public Health for the NHS, includes several former presidents of the Faculty of Public Health and more than 50 directors of public health.

Their short report, published today, identified four areas they believe the bill will “compromise and weaken” core public health functions.

Transferring the bulk of public health responsibility to councils was “flawed”, the report said, as the bill provided no safeguards that services would be provided as a “universal entitlement to all” nor that councils would be “adequately resourced or appropriately staffed” to perform their duties.

Question marks over the sources of commissioning support posed a threat to parts of local public health services due to be overseen by clinical commissioning groups, the report argued.  This was compounded by a lack of “any substantial role” for public health on the NHS Commissioning Board.

In addition, it claimed the bill’s move towards a more market based health system risked “seriously undermining” and fragmenting the coordination of responses to public health emergencies and population wide functions such as cancer screening.

The report also argued that while the status of public health directors within councils had been strengthened by amendments, the bill still represented a reduction to their overall status and independence as public health advocates.

The group argues its analysis is “not designed to alarmist”, but rather to convey the extent to which that government’s proposals are “damaging and dangerous”.

The Faculty of Public Health withdrew its support for the bill early in February following a ballot of members.

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