Warning over loss of public health information

Vital information about local health needs may be lost as responsibility for public health moves to local authorities, a senior GP has warned.

Deprivation: public health changes could increase inequalities
Deprivation: public health changes could increase inequalities

Detailed information about local health needs should form the basis for reducing health inequalities, according to a DoH workbook issued last week.

It has been designed to help commissioners develop a strategic approach to reducing inequalities in mortality.

'Known population need' and 'known intervention efficacy' are the two starting points that strategies should be built on, the workbook says.

But Northumberland LMC secretary Dr Jane Lothian said public health knowledge would suffer as responsibilities were split across authorities and GP commissioning consortia.

Dr Lothian has been asked to take on a public health advisory role within her consortium.

But she said GP consortia may not have access to detailed information about practice populations. 'I am concerned that potential fragmentation will lead to an increase, not a decrease, in health inequalities,' she said. 'With the division of responsibility in terms of consortia and authorities there will be a gap in the middle for the technical, medical public health knowledge,' she said.

'It is a big problem. Local authorities' view of public health is very different from the technical information GPs will need to commission services.'

Changes to organisational boundaries, and the potential removal of practice boundaries would compound the problem of trying to identify local public health needs, she said.

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