Public health doctors are calling for a director post to be created in strategic health authorities in a bid to make 'public health targets as important as waiting lists'.

The Royal College of Physicians' faculty of public health medicine heard junior health minister Lord Hunt outline plans to create board-level directors of public health in primary care trusts, earlier this month.

He said that public health networks would ensure specialist expertise could be pooled across local areas.

But Lord Hunt said the networks would 'not be a vehicle for performance management of the public health function', which would be carried out by SHAs.

Faculty president Professor Sian Griffiths, who is public health director at Oxfordshire health authority, said she welcomed Lord Hunt's 'clear commitment' to PCT director posts.

But she added: 'What we would like to see is directors of public health at SHA level as well.What we want to see is public health targets being as important as waiting lists.That is why you need someone who understands public health in performance management.'

SHA public health directors were proposed in an appendix to the government's consultation document, Shifting the Balance of Power in the NHS.

Professor Griffiths confirmed that 'there are anxieties' among HA-based faculty members about their future, when HAs are abolished in the Shifting the Balance shake-up. 'What We are anxious about is that experience will be kept, ' she said.