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PHOENIX: Public Health and Obesity in England – the New Infrastructure eXamined First interim report: the scoping review

Gadsby, Erica W., Peckham, Stephen, Coleman, Anna, Segar, Julia, Perkins, Neil, Jenkins, Linda M., Bramwell, Donna (2015) PHOENIX: Public Health and Obesity in England – the New Infrastructure eXamined First interim report: the scoping review. PRUComm, 15 pp. (KAR id:47725)

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The PHOENIX project aims to examine the impact of structural changes to the health and care system in England on the functioning of the public health system, and on the approaches taken to improving the public’s health.

The scoping review has now been completed. During this phase we analysed: Department of Health policy documents (2010-2013), as well as responses to those documents from a range of stakeholders; data from 22 semi-structured interviews with key informants; and the oral and written evidence presented at the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee on the role of local authorities in health issues. We also gathered data from local authority (LA) and Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) websites and other sources to start to develop a picture of how the new structures are developing, and to collate demographic and other data on local authorities. A number of important themes were identified and explored during this phase. In summary, some key points related to three themes - governance, relationships and new ways of working - were:

The reforms have had a profound effect on leadership within the public health system. Whilst LAs are now the local leaders for public health, in a more fragmented system, leadership for public health appears to be more dispersed amongst a range of organisations and a range of people within the LA. At national level, the leadership role is complex and not yet developed (from a local perspective).

Accountability mechanisms have changed dramatically within public health, and many people still seem to be unclear about them. Some performance management mechanisms have disappeared, and much accountability now appears to rely on transparency and the democratic accountability that this would (theoretically) enable.

The extent to which ‘system leaders’ within PHE are able to influence local decisions and performance will depend on the strength of relationships principally between the LA and the local Public Health England centre. These relationships will take time to develop.

Many people have faced new ways of working, in new settings, and with new relationships to build. Public health teams in LAs have faced the most profound of these changes, having gone from a position of ‘expert voice’ to a position where they must defend their opinions and activities in the context of competing demands and severely restricted resources. Public health staff may require new skills, and may need to seek new ‘allies’ to thrive in the new environment.

HWBs could be crucial in bringing together a fragmented system and dispersed leadership.

The next phase of data collection will begin in March with the initiation of case study work. National surveys will be conducted in June/July this year (2014), and at the same time the following year. In this work, we will further explore the following themes: relationships, governance, decision making, new ways of working, and opportunities and difficulties.

Item Type: Research report (external)
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Depositing User: Stephen Peckham
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2015 16:49 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 20:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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