Published: 04/03/2004, Volume II4, No. 5895 Page 6 7

Health secretary John Reid was set to open consultation on the public health white paper yesterday in a bid to capitalise on the momentum created by last week's Wanless report.

Eight task groups will head the consultation - in a similar style to the recent consultation on patient choice - and they will be co-ordinated by Fiona Adshead, deputy chief medical officer in charge of public health.

The groups will cover different areas of public health and attempt to consult on the best way to achieve Wanless's 'fully engaged' scenario.

The groups will focus on better health for children and young people; workforce and employment; consumers and markets;

leisure; the contribution of primary care to public health; the contribution of the NHS as a whole to public health; working with communities; and delivery systems.

The Department of Health is to produce a document with sets of questions for individuals, primary care trust and strategic health authority leads, and voluntary organisations.

Questions will range from asking the public whether they think the government has got the balance right on the regulation of smoking in public places, to the role the NHS can play in improving the general health and well being of the public.

A DoH spokesperson said all PCT and SHA directors of public health would be asked to co-ordinate consultation across their local area.

l Health Development Agency chair Dame Yve Buckland has defended the organisation against criticisms by Mr Wanless that there is a 'very poor information base' on which public health interventions work - the HDA's main function is to provide organisations with this evidence base.

The report also urged arm'slength bodies, including the HDA, public health observatories and the Health Protection Agency, to co-ordinate their efforts more closely at a local level.

And it says the government's current review of arm's-length bodies should examine their relationship with PCTs.

Dame Yve said the structures under which the HDA works restricted its links with PCTs, and she hoped the agency would have more of a role to play in forging local partnerships with PCTs in the future.

She told HSJ that the HDA has to work through the National Primary Care Development Team and the Modernisation Agency in order to target PCTs.

But she said the HDA also suffered from capacity constraints:

'It has also been a capacity issue for the agency, it would be very difficult to work with every individual PCT; I hope the white paper will pick up on PCTs' roles in public health.'