• New report recommends north east NHS and local authorities “radically increase” funding in preventative care
  • Report focuses on tacking health inequalities and and close the health and wealth gap in the region
  • Recommends a dedicated investment pot and suggests increasing funding £160m a year by 2020-21

Public sector leaders should set a target for ”radically” increasing preventative spending and create a dedicated investment pot for it, according to a commission chaired by the Public Health England chief executive.

The north east commission for health and social care integration’s report also challenges the region’s health and care leaders to be more ambitious and to close the “health and wealth” gap.

The project, set up last year by the North East Combined Authority as part of discussions about greater “devolution” to the region, was chaired by PHE chief Duncan Selbie.

Its 10 recommendations for health and care leaders in County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland include:

  • integrating preventative spend from across health, care and wider public services
  • setting an ambition to “radically” increase preventative spending – suggesting £160m a year by 2020-21 as an “appropriate” amount
  • creating a dedicated investment pot so different organisations can pool the increase in preventative spending into one ring-fenced fund

Mr Selbie said: “We are recommending that the entire system needs to shift its priority towards preventing poor health.

“We propose that the North East civic and health leaders set a target for radically increasing preventive spend across the health and public service system by freeing up and redistributing existing resources.

“To kick start this, we have proposed the establishment of a prevention investment fund that will bring together contributions from all partners that stand to gain from the expected savings.”

The health and wealth - closing the gap in the north east report says regional leaders should work with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy to set a baseline of current preventative spend and a methodology to track increase in investment.

It also recommends that the region should act as a ”national exemplar in transparency and effectiveness of preventive spend” by becoming the first in the country to measure, monitor and report on spend year on year. They should also act as a pilot for PHE and CIPFA work on tools to assess the effectiveness of public health investments.

The report says the sustainability and transport plans give the region the opportunity to reduce the amount spent on acute care and create extra cash for preventative services.

But South Tyneside CCG chief officer David Hambleton told HSJ talks could soon be underway between CCGs, local authorities and the government to pump-prime the recommended investment pot.

The chair of the northern CCG forum said: “We cannot just wait for us to stop people being admitted to hospital in order to improve their healthy lifestyles.

“We have to take something of a leap of faith. This is the new big idea and will require collective agreement of us to make that happen.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Developing a primary care staff training programme to help them get patients back to work as quickly as possible
  • Commissioning employment support through IAPT services, to help people with mental health problems get back to work
  • Setting a target for the proportion of workforce involved in the better health at work award scheme