Council to take control of £29m health money

womenBS''Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield's director of public health
womenBS''Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield's director of public health
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SHEFFIELD’S top health boss told councillors moving £29 million of public health money to town hall control could help tackle the city’s long-standing problems.

Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield Director of Public Health, briefed councillors on plans to move responsibility for public health from the abolished Primary Care Trust to the council in April 2013.

The plans, part of the Government’s controversial health reforms, will mean town hall bosses taking control of treatment services such as drug and alcohol misuse, sexual health and health awareness campaigns.

Some 65 staff will transfer into council employment.

Dr Wight told the council’s healthier communities scrutiny committee: “Public health is actually coming home to local authorities.

“Until 1974 public health was part of local authorities, when it broke off and went to the NHS.

“There are clear advantages to this change.

“An awful lot of root causes of ill health are in the control of local authorities, rather than the NHS.”

He said Sheffield Council has more control over employment, green spaces and housing than the NHS, providing an opportunity for wide-reaching changes.

“The ambition is to influence everything the council does,” Dr Wight said.

“But we must not lose our links with the NHS.

“Rather than just lift up the directorate and dump it on the council we are looking to have a distribution model of public health based on every portfolio in the council.”

But Dr Wight warned councillors they would not have a great deal of control over the way the £29m is spent.

He said: “This is not new money. It is all already committed.

“That’s not to say the use of it should not be re-examined.

“But if councillors want to spend it on something different, something else will have to go without funding.”

More than £10m of the fund is currently spent on alcohol misuse programmes, £6.5m on sexual health measures such as abortions and STI testing, £2.5m on obesity and physical activity programmes, £1.7m on tobacco schemes and £1.2m on public health leadership.

A further £11m will be transferred from the PCT to a new national organisation called Public Health England.

The new organisation will run cancer screening, childhood immunisations and flu jabs.