Backing for health plans

PLANS to appoint a new director of public health at a cost of £120,000 have been backed as part of a major shake-up.

In April 2013, Hartlepool Borough Council is set to take over responsibility for public health from NHS Hartlepool as part of Government changes.

Changes will see the abolition of PCTs and strategic health authorities.

Instead councils will be given a statutory duty and a ring-fenced budget to improve and protect the health of residents.

There is currently an assistant director of health improvement, an NHS employee, whose role is jointly funded by NHS Hartlepool and the council.

But members of the council’s cabinet committee have backed plans to appoint a director or public health (DPH) and do without an assistant director post.

A report said it was the most “cost effective” option.

The process for recruiting a DPH, which will be led by NHS Hartlepool, is set to start and the cost of funding the post will come from the ring-fenced public health budget.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “If we are gaining a big area of responsibility, I would want our own person to lead that work.

“That option is also the cheapest, and it is a no-brainer.”

Labour councillor Robbie Payne said: “By doing this as early as we are, we will get the best possible person for the job.

“It is a no-brainer and we should be going for that as soon as possible.”

Labour councillor Ged Hall, portfolio holder for public health services, said whoever is appointed must have the right qualifications.

The regional director of public health has been working with chief executives to identify options of appointing a DPH.

The four options presented to cabinet were:

l Each local authority employs own DPH without an assistant director of health improvement. Total cost £120,000;

l Each local authority employs own DPH supported by an assistant director. Total cost £216,000;

l Two councils share a DPH and each have their own assistant. Total cost per council £156,000;

l Three councils share a DPH and each have their own assistant. Total cost per council £136,000.

Public health includes everything from sexual health, immunisation, drug and alcohol misuse, obesity programmes and tobacco control.

As part of the changes councils have been asked to create new health and wellbeing boards.

Cabinet members also backed plans for a team of officers to work closely with NHS Hartlepool ahead of the transition and agreed that the DPH should be accountable to the chief executive.

A comprehensive transition plan for public health will go to cabinet in January ahead of it being sent to the regional director of public health for approval.