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Districts’ role in prevention should be part of mainstream policy

Neil Clarke
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District councils play a central role in social care and health integration and preventative services.

We want to ensure that nationally we deliver better outcomes for residents and long-term savings for the public sector.

In a ground-breaking report last year, renowned health think-tank The King’s Fund dubbed district councils ‘the sleeping giants’ of public health and social care.

As a network the DCN is committed to taking forward the 10 key report recommendations. The paper acknowledged strong evidence of good practice among districts. The report also said districts must build on this evidence base and cement district relationships within the new healthcare architecture.

To harness this commitment and capture the enthusiasm of senior district members and officers for advancing this agenda, we recently held a sell-out conference at Local Government House to explore and take forward the role of districts in public health and health prevention.

The conference explored examples of preventative health intervention from across the country and further identified the great potential we have to do significantly more at district level.

This conference also heralded the launch of the DCN Public Health Task Force, which is chaired by that formidable champion of public health, John Ashton. The panel includes stakeholder representation from the Department of Health, Public Health England, NHS Clinical Commissioners, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Public Health and county and district members.

The task force has set in motion an action plan to fulfil all 10 recommendations made by The King’s fund and provide a national conduit between the health service and district councils. This is vital if districts are to engage in a meaningful way with health and wellbeing boards and get a hearing in the development of sustainability and transformation plans.

Not surprisingly, there is huge support among our members for promoting the district role in prevention into mainstream health and social care policy. The district difference delivers significant upstream savings for the health service. For example , every £1 spent by a district council adapting homes where a serious fall is likely to otherwise occur could save the NHS £69.37 over 10 years.

It is clear that districts deliver on prevention. With the prospect of a fiscal ‘reset’ at the autumn statement and a ‘reset’ within NHS bodies to improve their financial and operational performance, the DCN will again make the case for equity with the rest of the local government family.

Districts are well placed to ensure that STPs reflect the health and social care needs of the geographies they cover. If all 201 districts are fully engaged with this agenda, it will deliver a telling and cost-effective difference in our localities across England.

Neil Clarke (Con), chairman, District Councils’ Network, and leader, Rushcliffe BC

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