Since 2013, councils have been responsible for public health functions, ranging from smoking cessation, obesity, and sexually transmitted diseases. There is clear evidence that the transfer of these services from the NHS to local authorities has been a success. Over the same period, councils have worked with NHS partners to closer integrate heath and social care services, providing more individual and people focused care.
Yet the transfer has not been without its challenges, not least in reduced yearly funding for the service and embedding it across different services and councils in some areas, but the pandemic has shown the benefits of a local approach.
Public health teams have worked with local partners and across local authorities in Coronavirus test and trace, enforcement, local communications, vaccinations, and more – showing that ‘local knows best’.
Whilst the pandemic has highlighted the benefits of local public health, there was already ample evidence that councils were performing well, with their commissioning and procurement expertise creating better value for money, and their ability to link across services and with local health partners seeing a drop in sexually transmitted diseases, smoking, and an increase in life expectancy.
Over the last decade, councils have worked with NHS partners and other key stakeholders to closer integrate health and social care, aiming to wrap services around the individual. The Health and Care White Paper sets out an aspiration to take this further, which the County Councils Network supports. However, Integrated Care Systems should learn the lessons from CCN’s research published 12 months after their inception, as well as Patricia Hewitt’s review, and ensure that there is a greater role for councils within these systems.