Reshaping services to improve public health
A fresh approach to the way Northumberland County Council funds and manages its public health functions is being adopted.
The authority’s goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and reduce health inequality across the county.
A report, approved by cabinet, set out proposals for three key public health programmes: the Drug and Alcohol Misuse Treatment Service; the Public Health Service for 0-19 years and an Integrated Wellbeing Service.
Each programme will integrate several services into one. For example, the smoking cessation service will be integrated into the wellbeing service and school nursing and health visiting will be integrated into the 0-19 service.
The authority will also be moving to a more community-based approach to prevent ill health by improving health and wellbeing. This will involve working with local people to identify what is important to them and supporting them to build on and develop initiatives that help people lead healthy lives and stay well, rather than focusing on what makes people ill.
In recent months, public health officers have started visiting local communities to find out the types of local services, clubs, groups, activities and knowledge that help residents to feel happy, healthy and connected with their communities.
Further work is ongoing to share this knowledge across Northumberland making it easier for residents to connect with people and services.
Cllr Susan Dungworth, cabinet member for adult care and public health, said: “Northumberland is generally a healthy place, but there is variation within the county caused largely by differences in the social and economic circumstances in which people live. Improving health and wellbeing and reducing health inequalities are key priorities for us and many of the solutions can be found within our communities.”
After almost 40 years in the NHS, public health responsibility returned to Northumberland County Council in 2013. The service is supported by a ring-fenced government grant to be reduced by £2.8 million from 2015 to 2020.
Cllr Dungworth added: “As with many parts of the public sector we are experiencing substantial cuts to our finances and in these times of austerity it is essential that we make the best use of the resources that we have.
“By amalgamating and redesigning the health services we provide we will be able to continue to make improvements to the health of our residents and still provide an effective, accessible and efficient approach to health improvement, treatment and services.”