Public health doctor

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Public health morale crashes

The morale of public health staff is plummeting amid continuing uncertainty over job prospects at local authorities, the BMA warns.

Councils are reluctant to reveal their public health structures until the government announces final budget allocations in December, leaving PCT staff in limbo as to where they will go.

In the meantime, job matching and pooling is already taking place for organisations such as PHE (Public Health England) and the NHS Commissioning Board, and PCT staff risk missing out on these opportunities.

The issue has been compounded by the late announcement of arrangements for immunisation and screening services in August, said BMA regional coordinator Glyn Rhys Jones.

‘This is creating great confusion for our public health doctors because they don’t know if they are going to PHE and working in the NHS Commissioning Board local area teams, going to local government, or having to work for a mixture of both,’ he explained.

Cuts in money and jobs

The BMA has identified several more issues affecting public health doctors in the South and South East, following concerns outlined by the BMA.

East Sussex County Council has had its indicative public health budget cut by £4m to £21m, and could be subject to restructuring prior to public health transfer. In Berkshire, there are reports of staff being offered alternative jobs that are unsuitable and which might need to be addressed through a formal appeals process.

And in London, Westminster Council is struggling with the potential funding on offer, and fears that it could become worse if a proposed formula is imposed after 2014.

Westminster council cabinet member for adults Rachael Robathan said: ‘Bringing local healthcare under council control will involve substantial changes and opportunities. Westminster has some concerns about funding. At this point, it is not possible to predict the impact on public health staff.’

BMA regional coordinator Andrew Barton said the situation was also chaotic in north-west London, although councils hoped to outline structures within weeks.

He warned: ‘Councils are not reassured about the future funding following central government announcements, and they will not confirm finally until they know about the funding, which is not happening till December. Staff morale in public health is suffering.’

East Sussex County Council assistant chief executive Simon Hughes said the council was working to clarify its budget. He added: ‘What we do know is that the proposed budget neither reflects the need in East Sussex nor our new duties.’