NHS Direct has appointed its first director of public health.

Dr Brian Gaffney will assume responsibility for developing the trust’s relationships with GPs, hospital doctors and the profession in general.

He will also help develop long-term public health programmes of work, which will feed into the implementation of NICE framework guidelines and local and national helplines.

Dr Gaffney joined the service in 2009 as national public health adviser. Before that, he worked as an NHS doctor for 25 years, later qualifying as a consultant in public health medicine. He was also chief executive for the Northern Ireland Health Promotion Agency from 1996 to 2009.

“I am delighted to take on this significant and challenging role,” he said. “NHS Direct already has excellent relationships with many doctors and I hope I can build on these and increase our collaboration in the future.

“I want to promote a better understanding about the service and learn how we can better support patients and the medical profession.”

He will fill the role on a part-time basis so he can continue to work in general practice.