What's on managers' minds this week

'Going through the fitness for purpose programme, what struck me was the robustness of information we need about the population we serve, and I don't know if we have the capacity in individual primary care trusts to do this,' says one PCT director of public health based in the north.

The Department of Health's fitness for purpose programme, launched last month, has caused a flurry of activity in those PCTs not set to merge this autumn.

Public health teams will have to examine not only how they measure the needs and demographic of their population but for the first time they are also required to check that patients are happy with the service they are getting.

'We need to be asking if we have the quality of information we need, asking our population if they are happy with the service we provide, and if we need to change that service to meet the needs of the population not just to make our jobs easier,' says another northern public health director.

'We also need to examine what the new roles of the director of public health and public health team are in this new NHS world,' they add.

Another director called on the government to define the role of public health observatories to support PCT teams in delivering the new agenda.

'Public health observatories are very well placed to help us in this. They could provide the quality data analysts we need and help us to develop as really, really good business managers, perhaps we could commission this type of work from them.'

The government committed£10m per year to the observatories in its November 2004 white paper Choosing Health to develop a national public health and intelligence strategy. One public health director says that the observatories should also be tasked with analysing present and future need for local populations alongside this work.

Another asks whether PCTs will be able to properly predict not only the needs of their present population but what they will be in future.

'This is a big piece of work, but have we got the right people to do it?'