Health Service Focus


Firefighters and pharmacists: empowering the wider public health workforce

Source: NHE Mar/Apr 17

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), explains how we must look beyond the core public health workforce to meet the challenges of 2017.

It would be easy to be gloomy about the prospects for public health in 2017. As in many other areas of public spending, year-on-year cuts are a reality we are getting used to. After the chancellor, Philip Hammond, presented his final Spring Budget, he offered little in the way of respite. 

With the effects of public health spending cuts already being felt – alarming increases in sexually transmitted infections and drug-related hospital admissions are just two things that have already been explicitly linked to disinvestment in services – we in the public health community will reprise our usual lines, drawing on the NHS Five Year Forward View, about the need for a radical upgrade in public health, and investment in prevention being far more cost-effective than cure. 

These lines remain as true as ever, and yet they also remain unlikely to result in increased funding in the current political climate. The sad reality facing us is that, at least in the short term, we will have to find ways to do more with less. We could let this dispirit us, or (if we take the view of the eternal optimist) we can use it to provide further impetus to unleash more innovative and effective approaches and ways of working. 

A renewed focus on regionalism and localism, as expressed through the sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), may help. These plans should help ensure investment is better targeted to meet the needs of local populations, and that much-needed emphasis is placed on community-based support, prevention and the social determinants of health.

It is also clear the challenges facing the public’s health in 2017 cannot be met by the 40,000-strong core public health workforce alone. That is why one of the key drivers of RSPH’s work is, has been, and will continue to be the engagement, empowerment and upskilling of the wider public health workforce – the 15 million people in the UK who have the opportunity or ability to positively impact health and wellbeing through their work, from allied health professionals and blue light services to housing professionals and postal workers. 

RSPH aspires to a society where some element of protecting and promoting the public’s health is ingrained in everyone’s business – not just seen as belonging to a discrete public health profession which is already overstretched. 

Throughout this year, RSPH will be following through on work to help make this vision a reality. A number of professions, including firefighters and pharmacists, are already mobilising in support of the prevention agenda. Through our work, we hope to mobilise many more. 

One by one, we are engaging with different workforces to assess their capacity and desire to play a more active role in supporting the public’s health, and setting out what steps must be taken to enable them to do so. Later this year, we will be working with ukactive to better understand the potential role the health and fitness sector can play, as well as collaborating with the Professional Standards Authority to examine the role of the accredited registered workforce, including counsellors, complementary therapists and nutritionists.

To support this wider public health workforce, RSPH has launched a new qualification – the Level 2 Award in Improving the Public’s Health – to help all of those who want to develop their skills and take advantage of the opportunities in this area to do so. Bodies already interested in delivering the qualification to their staff range from local authorities in London and NHS trusts on the south coast to ambulance services in Yorkshire. Upskilling all of these professionals to support their clients in behaviour change that creates healthier lifestyles will help lessen the burden on both the core public health workforce and the NHS in 2017 and beyond. 

When the chancellor delivered his Spring Budget, he may indeed have not offered much respite to the public health community in terms of raw funding. However, courtesy of the accompanying 2017 Finance Bill, we will have seen more details of the implementation of the government’s sugar levy – a timely reminder that, if the public health community speaks in unison loudly and for long enough, even progressive legislation that may have once seemed unlikely under the current government can find its way into being. 

RSPH will continue to campaign in 2017 for such measures that level the playing field for healthy choice, and we encourage others to do the same.

For more information



There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Lord Kerslake quits as trust chair in protest against NHS underfunding

11/12/2017Lord Kerslake quits as trust chair in protest against NHS underfunding

Lord Kerslake has resigned as the chairman of a major hospital trust in London in protest against historic underfunding in the NHS. The respect... more >
CQC praises ‘proactive’ Hartlepool services in care integration review

08/12/2017CQC praises ‘proactive’ Hartlepool services in care integration review

The CQC had praise for the health and care system in Hartlepool as it continued its programme of 20 targeted reviews of integrated care. The... more >
Government launches inquiry into Ian Paterson case

08/12/2017Government launches inquiry into Ian Paterson case

A national inquiry has been launched into the malpractice of Ian Paterson. Earlier this year the breast surgeon was sentenced to 20 years in pri... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

last word

The Refugee Doctor Initiative

The Refugee Doctor Initiative

Terry John, co-chair of the BMA & BDA Refugee Doctors and Dentists Liaison Group and chair of the union’s international committee, talks about a brilliant initiative that is proving mut... more > more last word articles >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Ten lessons to support new care models locally

29/11/2017Ten lessons to support new care models locally

Anna Starling, policy fellow at the Health Foundation, offers the top 10 lessons for local leaders seeking to make systematic improvements across services, all based on first-hand accounts from vanguard officials. Redesigning health and social care services across traditional boundaries is not easy. Making change in complex environments, with differing professional viewpoints and varying organisational priorities while getting on with t... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


The equality equation that doesn’t add up

29/11/2017The equality equation that doesn’t add up

There’s a theory that innovation springs from embracing and valuing our differences, so why do we sometimes behave as though diversity of t... more >
CQC: Beyond traditional boundaries

29/11/2017CQC: Beyond traditional boundaries

Professor Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, discusses the mixed findings of this year’s major State of Care report. ... more >
A balancing act: commissioning in the new world of accountable care

29/11/2017A balancing act: commissioning in the new world of accountable care

Ruth Robertson, policy fellow at the King’s Fund, considers how CCG responsibilities and relationships will change and evolve as the NHS mo... more >
Mortimer: Waterproofing the NHS workforce

22/11/2017Mortimer: Waterproofing the NHS workforce

With the NHS facing worker shortages, tight budgets and major recruitment issues, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, explains how ... more >
Realising the power of data

22/11/2017Realising the power of data

Nick Hirst, chief information officer at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network, outlines how his organisati... more >


Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >
Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

02/10/2017Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

NHE interviews Gillian Fox, head of eProcurement (Scan4Safety) programme at NHS Supply Chain. How has the Scan4Safety initiative evolved sin... more >
Simon Stevens: A hunger for innovation

25/09/2017Simon Stevens: A hunger for innovation

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, knows that the health service is already a world leader when it comes to medical advances – ... more >
Improving care at the touch of a screen

08/08/2017Improving care at the touch of a screen

When it comes to dementia, having a calm and safe environment can have a substantial impact on a patient’s quality of life. NHE’s Jos... more >