The only way public health outcomes can be improved in the long term is to develop a cross-party approach, according to a think-tank report.
The report, written by IPPR senior research fellow Phil McCarvill, calls on the main political parties to commit to the development of a “long-term vision and strategic approach to public health”.
Otherwise, it warns the pressure to demonstrate progress at the polls will continue to sweep away effective public health policy that needs a longer timeframe to show strong outcomes.
The report states: “The need to demonstrate progress potentially discourages politicians from taking decisions which will come to fruition in the longer term.
“While there may be a limited number of ‘quick wins’, the reality is that public health is a long-term project. It is not about performance management in the short term, but rather about putting in place longer term goals and measurement systems.”
It adds: “The only way to genuinely overcome such problems is to develop a cross-party approach to public health.”
The report is based on a meeting of public health experts from a range of professional organisations, as well the NHS and Department of Health, which took place in June.
It also sets out recommendations it says are necessary to strengthen the government’s current set of reforms. In particular, it focuses on concerns that councils are planning to have public health directors report to directors of social care services rather than chief executives, when they transfer from primary care trusts.
The government, in its public health policy update paper in July, sought to allay these concerns by stating it had an “expectation” they would report directly to council chief executives.
To give further protection to public health directors, the IPPR report said a “model job description” – based on that originally described in the public health white paper – should be adopted as a national standard and enshrined in the Public Health Bill.
It also calls on the DH to actively monitor the positioning of directors and that Public Health England should “develop and promote” networks of directors of public health.