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Councils get £2bn for public health

Councils will be allocated more than £2 billion to look after public health under plans announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

As part of the Government's reforms of the NHS, councils are being handed responsibility for public health, something that has not lain with local authorities since the 1970s.

They will be asked to focus on measures relating to the health needs of their local population from an array of 66 outcome "indicators". Central government will not dictate which indicators councils must focus on, or how they achieve them, but data will be published with the aim of holding local authorities to account.

The 66 indicators include reducing child poverty and pupil absence, increasing levels of employment among people with long-term health conditions and cutting the number of road casualties. There are also specific measures on tackling adult and childhood obesity, breastfeeding rates and the proportion of teenagers under 18 falling pregnant.

Exercise rates among adults, how many people smoke, drug treatment and admissions to hospital resulting from alcohol are also included. These run alongside cancer screening rates, tooth decay among under-fives and preventable sight loss.

Some councils will receive bonus "health premium" payments if they are successful, with Mr Lansley saying there was a need to move away from a situation where the worse things are, the more money is given.

"We have to have a philosophy that says we will pay for results," he said while setting out the new Public Health Outcomes Framework in a speech at the Faculty of Public Health.

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said Labour welcomed handing local authorities new responsibility for public health but "the Government has not demonstrated how it can effectively ring-fence the money and stop cash-strapped councils from diverting the funds to related issues like social care".

Ms Abbott said: "Lansley's claims for his re-organisation of public health are hollow. The truth is that the cuts in public spending overall, and the chaos and confusion caused by the NHS reforms, mean that today's announcement just masks a growing crisis in healthcare. These proposals are dead on arrival."

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dr Peter Carter welcomed the document, but added: "However, we are acutely aware that changes have already been happening on the ground, well before this document came to light, and are concerned that some of the wider reaching implications have not been fully considered."


From Belfast Telegraph