Public Health England is planning to publish national rankings of public health outcomes in different local authority areas, in a bid to encourage journalists and members of the public to “challenge those in positions of responsibility”.

The organisation will publish data online – focused on premature mortality rate – in a format which allows councils’ public health outcomes to be compared to those of other authorities.

The project, called Longer Lives, will allow users to “see how their local authority compares both nationally and within their socioeconomic deprivation decile,” according to PHE.

A report by the national body, seen by HSJ sister title Local Government Chronicle, indicates that it believes the comparative data will be an important way of improving the quality of councils’ services.

“If you have an interest in community health – perhaps you’re a member of the public or media – the Longer Lives data can function as an authoritative context for conversations and challenges to those in positions of responsibility,” the report says.

A letter accompanying the report, from Public Health England’s chief knowledge officer John Newton, says: “Making England’s premature mortality data transparent and accessible is a significant step forward for the new health and care system and likely to generate considerable interest.”

It is scheduled to be launched on 11 June with data about cancer, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and liver disease. According to PHE it will “highlight variations across all the local authorities in England and offer guidance to help make improvements”.

John Ashton, incoming president of the Faculty of Public Health, told LGC he had not seen the new data but believed it could have a major impact on local authorities.

“Having this local data can galvanise political action,” he said. “People will get motivated and angry if they have data in their hands that shows people in their area have a much shorter life expectancy than other people. People do get surprised when they realise the extent of variations [in health outcomes].”

He said he also hoped the publication of the data would encourage a new mind-set among those commissioning services.

A senior local government officer told LGC he had mixed feelings about the new data. “If this is about using big data to genuinely understand local need and give councils the freedom to spend on local priorities rather than things that are mandated nationally, that’s great,” he said.

“But if it becomes an ersatz league table, it would be a stupid piece of sensationalism.”

The information will include population, deprivation, and data on premature mortality including an overall ranking, and indicators for cancer, liver disease, lung disease, heart disease and stroke.

This story originally appeared in Local Government Chronicle