Andrew Lansley has unveiled the public health white paper saying it goes further and faster in tackling causes of premature death and illness and reducing health inequalities.

The most radical, but not unexpected, change will see public health responsibilities shift from primary care trusts to local authorities under a the role of directors of public health.

Many PCTs and councils have anticipated this move with 85 per cent of PCTs having a joint public health director with their local authority, according to the Association of Public Health Directors.

The plans will see public health teams shift to local authority control along with a ring-fenced budget, the precise value of which is yet to be determined.

A new body, Public Health England (PHE), will also be created as a service that “gives more power to local people over their health, whilst keeping a firm national grip on crucial population-wide issues such as flu pandemics.” At the core of that will be the current Health Protection Agency.

The total budget for public health is still unclear, although the white paper says it will be in the region of £4bn.

Mr Lansley told the House of Commons today: “Too often in the past, public health budgets have been raided by the NHS to tackle deficits. Not anymore. The money will be ringfenced to be used as it should be – for preventing ill health.

“People’s health and wellbeing will be at the heart of everything local councils do. It’s nonsense to think that health can be tackled on its own. Directors of public health will be able to champion local cooperation so that health issues are considered alongside housing, transport, and education.

“Everyone should have services tailored for them, at the right times in their life from the professionals closest to them. With local authorities in the driving seat, supported by the latest evidence on behaviour change from PHE, we will start seeing significant improvements in the nation’s health.”