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Public Health workforce crisis

2nd May 2006

02052006_publichealth1.jpgAccording to a new survey by the Faculty of Public Health the specialist public health workforce is in crisis, says Shannon McKenzie in Public Health News. There has been a loss of 224 consultants since the previous 2003 survey, in both service and academic posts.

Nearly 200 consultants who responded to the survey indicated they were considering leaving the field in the next five years, not just those near retirement age. The faculty is also predicting job losses as a result of the controversial Commissioning a patient-led NHS.

The survey also revealed that in the wake of ongoing primary care reorganisations, fears of job cuts and cuts to training programmes were strong. Prof Rod Griffiths, the Faculty president, warned that this could have serious ramifications for the public health function.

Prof Griffiths said that with every NHS reorganisation, significant damage is done to the public health workforce.  He added that the government has demonstrated its commitment to public health, seen particularly in Choosing health. However he warned that without an adequate, appropriately trained public health workforce, the public’s health will be put at risk.

The survey indicated a 40 per cent reduction in planned recruitment for public health training for 2006, compared to last year. Sources within the deaneries also revealed that four of the 13 regions planned to cancel their public health training completely this year.

There are also particular concerns that the academic public health workforce appears to be declining, despite the enormity of the challenges that face it. These two factors together risk a long-term shortage of public health consultants; the faculty has called for an expansion in the number of trainees recruited.

Only 36 per cent of primary care trusts believing they have sufficient capacity and capabilities to deliver the function, indicating strong doubts with regard to ability of their teams to deliver public health.

Prof Selena Gray, the report author, said that the report demonstrates the urgent need for clear human resources guidance that 'protects consultants in public health during this next reorganisation and for increased resources for training.’

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