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Public health

Mandatory public health services provided by local authorities to be reviewed

Department of Health and Social Care calling for evidence on whether regulations laid down in 2013 need to be changed.

health visitor reviewing pregnant woman

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Department of Health and Social Care wants to gather evidence on the impact of regulations on health visitor reviews of pregnant women, measuring children and other public health services

The types of public health services that local authorities are mandated to provide by central government is being reviewed.

And pharmacists have called for local needs analyses to be carried out on what additional services individual communities require.

When responsibility for public health was transferred from the NHS to local authorities in April 2013, the government laid down in regulations a list of services that all local authorities would be required to provide.

The Department of Health and Social Care is now calling for evidence on whether these regulations are fit for purpose, or whether changes are needed “to better support delivery of positive public health outcomes, promote accountability and encourage innovation”. Evidence must be submitted by 17 April 2018.

The current prescribed services are sexual health services (testing and treating of sexually transmitted infections, and contraception), weighing and measuring children, NHS health check programme, health protection, public health advice to NHS commissioners, and health visitor reviews of pregnant women and young children.

“Some regulations set out detailed requirements, while others are more general. We are interested in evidence about the impact these regulations have had in practice,” the government’s call for evidence document says.

A recent analysis by the King’s Fund shows that the non-mandated services have borne the brunt of local authority cuts, particularly stop-smoking services and non-prescribed sexual health services (advice, prevention and promotion).

Sanjay Ganvir, chair of Camden & Islington Local Pharmaceutical Committee, and professional services director at Greenlight Pharmacy, a pharmacy chain in London, said some services should be mandated but that local areas should also be required to conduct a robust needs analysis, involving all stakeholders including the general public and community pharmacy, to identify what additional specific services the community needs.

“Commissioners need to be more sophisticated in the way they commission, particularly bearing in mind we are in austerity and the community pharmacy network is outrageously underutilised,” said Ganvir, who co-authored a report for the Local Government Association in 2016 looking at what community pharmacy could offer for improving the public’s health.

“It is the biggest walk-in centre the NHS has, so why is it not being utilised?”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204380

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