• Long-term plan suggested councils’ roles in public health could be scaled back
  • But Duncan Selbie says comments referred to a review aiming to achieve better joined-up working

The “rationale” for councils to lead on public health remains unchanged, the chief executive of Public Health England has said.

This is despite a suggestion in the NHS long-term plan that councils’ role could be diminished.

The plan, published on Monday, said the government and the health service will “consider whether there is a stronger role for the NHS in commissioning sexual health services, health visitors, and school nurses, and what best future commissioning arrangements might therefore be”.

However, writing in response to the plan, Duncan Selbie said the document was referring to a joint review between local government and the NHS which would aim to achieve better joined-up working on public health.

He added: “The rationale for local government to lead on public health remains unchanged, but this joint review between the NHS and local government will ensure that we have the best possible join-up between them, with no predetermined outcome.

“Local authority directors of public health will bring invaluable expertise and insight to this.”

Mr Selbie also said a new prevention-focused NHS, as outlined in the long-term plan, must work alongside an “adequately funded” local government.

He said measures in the plan would redress the underfunding of prevention compared to treatment.

“Wider determinants, including income, are even more important because to stay healthy people need homes, good jobs and friends, and an environment that makes healthy choices possible, he said.

“Therefore, it is vital for the NHS, with its new focus on prevention, to work alongside an adequately funded and appropriately resourced local government.”