Focus on: Public Health and Prevention: Has the Quality of Services Changed Over Recent Years?

Source: QualityWatch (a partnership between Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation)

Link to main document

Publication format: PDF

Date of publication: April 2016

Summary of driver

This research looks at whether the quality of public health services, and public health outcomes, have changed over the last few years, particularly in the light of the move to local authority provision of public health since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

20 public health indicators are examined, along with reflections from senior public health staff. Six indicators showed deterioration, while 10 showed improvements although in five of those, progress may have slowed.

It was felt that there were opportunities for integration across local authority services to improve services, for example working with leisure services to encourage participation in sport. However, there was also some fragmentation, and loss of referral routes in some areas.

Continued funding cuts are still a concern, despite prevention and public health being a key part of the Five Year Forward View.

Key features of driver

Both quantitative and qualitative research approaches are used to provide an independent overview of public health quality and outcome. However, the short period of time since public health moved into local authorities in 2013 means it may not be long enough for funding and organisational changes to have had their full impact.

Primary audience

Public health staff, commissioners, Health and Wellbeing boards

Impact on library policy/practice

One of the main opportunities identified in the report was greater integration across local authority functions in support of public health goals. This may lead to a discussion about what constitutes the public health workforce, and whether library services that are commissioned to provide a service to public health may need to extend their offering to the ‘wider’ public health workforce, for example housing professionals, trading standards, and leisure centre staff, as these and many other employees can have an impact on public health outcomes.

Whilst an embedded librarian role, such as that used in Warrington (where there is a dedicated  Public Health & Commissioning Librarian) is an ideal, funding cuts to public health of 3.9% per year over the next five years as proposed in the 2015 spending review make this more difficult for local authorities to fund, and hence for library services to provide.

However, with prevention and public health being a key part of the Five Year Forward View, library services may decide, justifiably, to push to raise their visibility among public health staff, and try provide a range of key services to them (for example, literature searching and current awareness, as identified in the Warrington case study) even where funding for library services from local authorities does not follow. The Sustainability and Transformation Plans that are due to be published in 2016 may also provide a further driver for this. However, care needs to be taken that this does not disadvantage organisations that continue to pay for library services, or provide a disincentive to fund them.

Date last updated: July 2016

Due for review: July 2017

Group member responsible: JC

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