The proposals, outlined in the White Paper Healthy Lives Healthy People: Update and Way Forward, will see local authorities take over the role of Primary Care Trusts in commissioning public health workers in their area from April 2013.
In the shake-up of public health services, local authorities would be given additional ring-fenced funding to spend on commissioning health visitors and school nurses to work in their community when needed.
The move is designed to ‘empower local governments to shape their own approach to addressing local needs’, as the Government believes that local authorities are better placed to tackle health issues in their own community.
Under the plans, a new public health organisation- Public Health England would also be created to provide support and information for local leaders in charge of commissioning services for their authority.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said, ‘A new public health system with strong local and national leadership is essential to help save more lives, improve people’s health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities that exist across the country.
‘The White Paper generated real enthusiasm for a new approach to public health, which we will now develop, with local authorities leading local health and wellbeing strategies.’
Unite the union has criticised the Government’s plans to give local authorities responsibility for commissioning their own services.
Barrie Brown, Unite’s national officer for health, said, ‘The coalition has flown in the face of common sense with its proposals to move the public health workforce, such as school nurses, health visitors and public health consultants, from the unified structure of the NHS to local councils with their myriad ways of working.
‘We believe this will lead to the fragmentation of services which will be detrimental to families, communities and public health priorities.’