Some one in six local authorites are yet to appoint a permanent director of public health, more than a year since they took control of the service.

According to Department of Health figures, there are 25 vacancies across 152 councils.

Nicola Close, chief executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health said the number of empty positions was “still too high”.

She told HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle government described vacancy rates as “a cause for concern”.

“A lot of these posts have been vacant since April last year,” she added. “With public health moving into local authority control, without a permanent, substantive director in post, our concern is that there’s a risk they have not been able to make the impact they should have.”

Currently, empty posts are plugged with interim directors or through temporary arrangements to share a director with a neighbouring authority.

“I’m not concerned [about this] in a day-to-day way,” Ms Close said. “It’s more about the fact the director of public health role is one of influencing and leading and with only a temporary person in post that’s really difficult because it’s all about relationships and credibility.”

Ms Close warned the number of vacancies was unlikely to drop soon, due to retirements and a “handful of councils where it’s difficult to recruit” a public health director.