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Review concludes public health should stay with councils

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Responsibility for commissioning public health services will remain with local government, it has been announced.

Speaking at a meeting of the Local Government Association councillors’ forum today, Mr Hancock reportedly said the evidence for maintaining current council responsibilities for public health was “comprehensive, compelling and clear”.

There was widespread criticism from within local government of proposals in the NHS long term plan to review public health responsibilities and consider a “stronger role for the NHS” in commissioning services currently the responsibility of councils, such as sexual health, health visitors and school nurses.

In a statement released this afternoon, Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie said the review had recognised local government is best placed to lead on commissioning local public health services “and the invaluable skills [councils] bring to this”.

He added: ”The best services are always those commissioned collaboratively with the NHS and this review emphasises the importance of this in every part of England, as does the NHS Long Term Plan, including making the best use of shared resources.”

Chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board Ian Hudspeth (Con) said he was “delighted” the government had accepted the “powerful case for councils to keep their vital role for providing public health services”.

He added: “Councils have worked hard to provide and commission these services, including sexual health clinics, drug and alcohol treatment services and health visitors, despite facing reductions of £700m to their public health grant between 2015-16 and 2019-20.

“Commissioning of sexual health, reproductive health and HIV services is complex. The only way forward is through a whole system approach where together we commission services in a more collaborative way.”

Responsibility for public health transferred from the NHS to local government in 2013 under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

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