There has been considerable loss of public health capacity over the last 12 months, a workforce survey suggests.

The Association of Directors of Public Health has released findings from its latest poll of directors on the state of the transition of local public health responsibility from primary care trusts to local government.

The association’s survey of 107 directors of public health – three quarters of those in England – found 19 per cent of respondents had left their post, while just under a third reported losing consultants or other types of public health specialist from their teams over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, 38 per cent reported losing other non-specialist public health workforce resources – for example admin staff, project officers and programme mangers – through redundancies or vacant posts not being filled.

ADPH chief executive Nicola Close said there had “clearly been considerable loss of public health capacity in the last year”, which compounded “significant losses the previous year”.

Looking ahead, 20 per cent of survey respondents said they did not expect to be working in public health in 18 months time, or would be retired. Around two thirds expected to be working in public health for a local authority and the remaining 13 per cent expected to be working in the sector but not for a council.

Typical comments made by directors on issues affecting their future included being “tired, bored and fed up with reorganisations” or that “a lot depended on the HR conditions”.

The survey, which follows a similar poll carried out in April, showed 58 per cent of DPHs now expected to report directly to a council chief executive or equivalent, compared to just 31 per cent earlier in the year.

Of the remainder, 8 per cent expected to report to a “super director” of public health covering several boroughs, 16 per cent expected to report to another type of director such as adult social services, while 14 per cent were still unclear.

The government said in its public health white paper update in July that it expected DPHs to report directly to council chief executives and bolstered this yesterday by stating that the Health Bill would be amended to make DPHs a statutory post in councils. The announcement followed concerns about the future status of DPHs from groups including the ADPH and the Commons health select committee.