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Government review confirms local authorities will continue to commission public health services

Review recommends that councils and the NHS work more closely to co-commission public health services, including sexual and reproductive health services.

Adult carer talking to child in school

The review, conducted by the Department of Health and Social Care, recommends that the NHS work much more closely with local authorities on public health so that commissioning is more joined-up and prevention is embedded into a wider range of health services.

Speaking at the 2019 Jephcott Lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine on Thursday 6 June, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the departmental review found that local authorities take an active and efficient approach to commissioning services. He also praised local councils for their work in commissioning public health services and confirmed they will continue to lead on this important work. 

He acknowledged that many local authorities have taken steps to improve and modernise the services they commission, including through digital delivery, such as online STI testing.

He also set out further recommendations from the review, including a shift towards councils working jointly with the NHS to co-commission services specifically for sexual health. 

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the government committed to reviewing commissioning arrangements for some local authority-commissioned public health services.

The Department of Health and Social Care will be seeking views in a forthcoming prevention green paper about how action can be taken forward.

Speaking at the Jephcott Lecture, Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said:

Day in, day out, local authorities continue to provide excellent public health services. Whether that’s local action to reduce HIV transmissions or experimenting with innovative ways to reach people for sexual health services – such as offering online access to testing for thousands of people.

We are committed to supporting and encouraging joined-up commissioning of these services by local government and the NHS.

Our prevention green paper, which we will publish soon, will give people an opportunity to let us know their views on how we achieve this and build on the excellent local practice happening across the country.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, said: 

This review recognises that local government are best placed to lead on commissioning local public health services and the invaluable skill and expertise they bring to this.

The best services are always those commissioned collaboratively with the NHS and this review emphasises the importance of this for every part of England, as does the NHS Long Term Plan, including making the best use of shared resources.

Published 7 June 2019