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28.09.15

NHS countdown as power over 0-5 public health commissioning shifts to councils

The responsibility of commissioning key public health childhood services, including health visitors and family nurses, will transfer from the NHS to the hands of the councils this Thursday (1 October).

The “momentous” move forms the “final piece of the jigsaw” in the reshaping of public health services, originally commissioned and controlled by the state service before being partly transferred to councils in April 2013.

Public health childhood services were originally included in the NHS ring-fence, with the healthcare service being responsible for commissioning services from pregnancy to age five and child health information systems.

An NHS England ‘supplementary information’ report for commissioner planning in 2015-16 said: “Working in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) and with local public health services provided by councils, we will seek to ensure that the national level of performance for each service has been improved or at least maintained, and reduce the variation in local levels of performance.”

Health visiting services (universal and targeted) and family nurse services (targeted for teenage mothers) will now be transferred to 152 local authorities. NHS England is working with the Department of Health and councils to “ensure the safe transfer of commissioning responsibilities for these services”.

The report continued: “Our aim is to maintain the stability of service delivery whilst continuing the planned improvements in outcomes for children. This will mark the final part of the public health transfer.”

Prof Viv Bennett, chief nurse at PHE, added: “Local authorities understand the needs of local communities. The transfer of commissioning of the Healthy Child Programme gives them the opportunity to commission evidence-based services to support families to give children the best start, integrated with early and additional help when needed.

“The transfer also provides the opportunity to integrate public health services for 0-19-year-olds to support children and young people as they grow up.”

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