An “update” on the government’s public health proposals is due to be published next week, health secretary Andrew Lansley has said.
Speaking at the Faculty of Public Health annual conference in Birmingham yesterday, he said the document would provide more detail on a range of policies, including the development and form of Public Health England and commissioning.
But he noted it would not be a full command paper, suggesting the update would be used to drive a further period of consultation on public health policy on top of that for the white paper itself.
Mr Lansley said: “I hope next week we will publish an update on the public health white paper. It won’t be a command paper as such because that wouldn’t provide as much leeway for discussion and development.
“We are going to work together on issues relating to funding, where we will publish more later this year, on the public health outcomes framework and the commissioning structures.”
He added that the update would “say quite a lot” about the development and form of Public Health England, the setting up of which has been put back till April 2013.
Also addressing the conference, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said she expected Public Health England to have “regional hubs” co-located with those of the NHS Commissioning Board.
She added: “There will be local support as well, so it will be quite a stretched out organisation to network with the local authority.”
Dame Sally also told delegates she planned to set up an annual conference for directors of public health and their teams.
She said the updated policy paper would “lay out some stakes in the ground” and would “also lay out some strands of work that we still need to do that we will be engaging on”.
“We have an opportunity at the department to try and get the strategic panoramic vision right so you can fill in the detail beneath,” she told delegates.
She said North West regional director of public health, Ruth Hussey, who is on secondment with the DH, would be leading engagement work over the reforms on her behalf and that she would be reconvening a public health stakeholder group – originally set up during the writing of the white paper – to help guide implementation of the proposals.
“Clearly this is a time of uncertainty… I’m not going to skirt round that and I’m not going to hide from the difficulties that gives you in your leadership and your work,” she told delegates.
However, NHS Cumbria director of public health John Ashton warned that the government needed to do more to allay concerns of the public health workforce over the reforms and in particular noted the further uncertainty caused by the change in the public health policy timetable.
The update document “doesn’t really give us what we need at the moment”, he said.
“We could do with some more reassurance about what needs to happen… I think we could do with a stronger central steer and the command paper would have helped us with that,” he said.