Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework: August 2019 Update

Updated 8 February 2023

1. The Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework (PHSKF)

The PHSKF is a framework that describes the functions and activities carried out by people working to protect and promote the public’s health across the UK. The functions are carried out by professionals (the public health workforce) who are fully dedicated to leading and implementing activities that are designed to deliver on public health outcomes in each of the 4 UK nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some workers may carry out functions and activities described in the framework as part of another role in a wider public health workforce.

The framework is used by employers to identify strengths or gaps in their capabilities as teams and organisations to design job descriptions for recruitment. It is also used to support career conversations with individuals workers, by universities and other training providers to design and review curricular, and by individual workers to help them to recognise where their skill-sets fit within the wider public health endeavour – for them to define their development needs if they wish to increase their expertise and capability to protect and improve the health of populations and communities, and to support their career planning and progression.

2. Supporting tools and resources for the use and application of the PHSKF

Since the online publication of the revised PHSKF in November 2016, the webpage has been visited more than 28,000 times (about 5,000 of these visits from outside the UK). To support ongoing engagement with the Framework tools and guidance have been developed throughout 2018 and 2019.

The PHSKF should be consulted along with:

2.1 Guidance for line managers

A tool for line managers was published in January 2019 highlighting how the PHSKF can be used by supervisors, mentors and managers to support others in their personal development and career planning in public health. This document is supported by the:

  • PHSKF: sub-functions explained document – providing additional narrative and weblinks to assist with the interpretation of each of the functional areas of the Framework

  • PHSKF: self-assessment form – an editable Excel template for individuals to assess themselves against each of the functions and sub-functions of the Framework

2.2 PHSKF: Mapping tool

An Excel mapping tool has also been developed to assist education and training providers to map learning units or modules against the PHSKF. The tool can also be used to map or develop job descriptions, and other products.

2.3 Profile for community-centred ways of working

Working with subject leads across PHE and the other home nations, a profile of community-centred ways of working has been mapped to the PHSKF and to National Occupational Standards to support the development of workforces, and associated training and development programmes.

This is now available via the PHE library catalogue. We would like to hear your feedback on the tool through this survey.

Feedback is welcomed on all of these resources because their usefulness and functionality will be important considerations as we develop a digital service around the Framework (please contact us via:

2.4 PHSKF background paper: Public Health Ethics in Practice

The Public Health Ethics in Practice paper was published in April 2017, as a supporting document to the PHSKF. The paper was commissioned in response to demand captured during the consultation workshops with the workforce across the UK, at the start of the Framework review process in 2014 to 2015. Since its publication, Google Analytics data shows that the ethics paper has been downloaded 3,017 times (between April 2017 and July 2019).

The University of Southampton, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH), conducted a survey in late 2017 to better understand the experience, education and training of UK public health professionals in areas of public health ethics and law. Part of this survey sought to understand the familiarity of UK public health professionals with the background paper on ethical public health practice that underpins the PHSKF. The University of Southampton has recently published a discussion paper in the Journal of Public Health (July 2019) that reports and reflects on this element of the survey, visit: Frameworks and guidance to support ethical public health practice.

3. Evaluation of the PHSKF since its launch in November 2016

Between January and March 2019, the University of the West of England (UWE) conducted a rapid desk-top evaluation of the re-designed (2016) PHSKF. This work explored the views of the workforce, and key stakeholders, building on surveys conducted during the review stages of the Framework (see consultation reports 2015 and 2016 ). The evaluation team carried out a UK-wide survey (n=295) and key informant stakeholder interviews (n=16) to:

  • determine the impact of the re-designed framework on the workforce and their employers, and its utility

  • develop a quality assurance framework to secure the added value that the framework is delivering, and to mitigate against areas of vulnerability or risk

The findings include:

  • around a quarter of the respondents had never used the framework, almost half of those being previously unaware of it, and a further third not seeing a need to use it

  • of the other three-quarters who were accessing the framework, around a third were accessing and using the PHSKF as individuals – 27% as part of team activities and 19% as group leaders

  • 87% of those respondents who had used the framework agreed that the PHSKF was useful (of which 19% strongly agreed), though 12% did not find it useful

  • 82% of these respondents agreed that the PHSKF was both easy to use and had a positive impact (of which 12% strongly agreed or found the impact was extremely positive)

  • most respondents liked the colour coding, the division of areas and functions and the layout and structure

  • proposals for a digital version of the Framework were very well received by both survey and interview respondents

  • the main purpose for the use of the Framework was for workforce or team development (38%), followed by personal professional development (31%), and teaching (12%)

  • barriers to use included the lack of encouragement from managerial levels within organisations

The recommendations from the UWE team for PHSKF improvement include:

  • proceeding with a digital version of the Framework

  • clearly communicating the purpose of the Framework for each target audience

  • clarifying the links with other competency frameworks

  • addressing concerns about lack of levels within the Framework; and

  • creating an online PHSKF community of practice

Regarding the ongoing quality assurance of the Framework, the recommendations are:

  • to build an evaluation questionnaire into the digital PHSKF

  • to conduct longer-term and regular surveys for digital users

  • to develop more local case studies

  • to use the community of practice to gather regular feedback

  • to discuss how to build the quality assurance of the PHSKF into the wider quality assurance of public health workforce development with national health agencies

The PHSKF Steering Group, made up of representatives from lead public health and other agencies across the UK, is now considering these recommendations while reviewing its implementation and communications plan for 2019 to 2020. The UWE is also preparing a paper on the evaluation with a view to a journal publication later in the year.

3.1 PHSKF Career Passport (digital service)

The PHSKF is being developed into a digital format to make it quicker and easier for people to become familiar with it and to use it.

The development of digital products and services is guided by a process and standards determined by the Government Digital Service. Digital development is an iterative, or ‘agile’, process of co-design involving users at every stage. There are a number of development phases, from inception and exploration of user needs, to designing and testing prototypes and building a sample service for further testing discovery, alpha, beta, live.

The alpha phase of digital development for the PHSKF, carried out during 2017 to 2018, explored different digital solutions based on user research, with the final report and feedback submitted to the Department of Health and Social Care in August 2018.

3.2 Outcomes of alpha

One of the key deliverables of the alpha phase was a service map built around 4 main epics (large user stories or main uses) that emerged as key functions that users would look for when engaging with the PHSKF:

  1. understand the framework
  2. measure myself against the framework
  3. measure my team against the framework
  4. collect evidence

Three main user groups were also identified:

  1. individual users – public health and other workers from across a range of backgrounds
  2. lead users – those managing a group of public health staff or students
  3. strategic users – users that organise workforces

A working prototype was also developed to test core functionality with users and prioritise features for further development in beta.

The evaluation of the PHSKF by UWE supports some of the core functions identified for the beta phase of the digital Career Passport, including:

  • driving greater engagement/awareness of the framework

  • simplifying language and presentation

  • measuring end-to-end engagement with the Career Passport journey

  • creating a continuous feedback loop with users

An interim Digital Product Manager is now in post in the PHSKF programme office to focus the business case for closed and open beta phases that will be executed over the coming year.

We continue to be interested in hearing from individual workers who can help us to articulate why they might wish to use the Framework, and what everyday problems the Framework might help them to solve. We will use this information to inform the digital design (please contact us via:

4. Ambassador training webinars via Skype

As a means of engaging workers across the UK and developing a network of Framework advocates, an Ambassador role has been created. Individuals are invited to act as leads for the PHSKF in their respective teams and organisations. They are also encouraged to develop a network of PHSKF Champions within their organisations to assist with the cascade of information and socialisation of the Framework.

A series of Ambassador webinars are scheduled every year, with following supporting video:

Ambassador webinar

The next Ambassador webinars will be:

  • Tuesday 17 September 2019, 2pm to 3pm

  • Thursday 7 November 2019, 11am to midday

  • Wednesday 15 January 2020, 3pm to 4pm

For joining details, please contact:

We can also offer bespoke webinars for organisations or sectors, please contact: to enquire about this opportunity.

4.1 Feedback

Any comments or feedback on any aspect of the PHSKF and associated developments can be sent to:

PHSKF collections page