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Public Health Wales ' a new body to tackle the public health problems of the Principality

Public Health Wales, established as a new NHS Trust in October 2009, was set up to provide professionally independent public health advice and services to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of the population of Wales.1

The relatively poor health status of the Welsh population was highlighted in the Chief Medical Officer’s Health Status Wales Report in 20052, which noted that:

  • mortality rates in Wales are among the worst in Western Europe;
  • death rates from heart disease in Wales, and the UK, are substantially higher than in many western European countries;
  • Wales has amongst the highest rates of cancer registrations in Western Europe;
  • Consistently poor health persists in the South Wales valleys – in 2000-2002 death rates in Merthyr Tydfil (one of the most deprived communities in Wales) were almost 50% higher than in Ceredigion (one of the least deprived);
  • Wales has a much higher percentage of people reporting a long term limiting illness than in England – with the highest levels in the South Wales valleys;

  • mortality rates from cancers are worse in Wales than in England and Northern Ireland, although better than in Scotland;
  • in the 2001 Census, the percentage in Wales reporting that their health was not good was 12%, compared to 9% for England, and all Welsh local authorities had rates above the English average.
  • In June 2009, Mrs Edwina Hart AM, the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, announced the establishment of Public Health Wales to the National Assembly, following consultation on the Welsh Assembly Government paper on the unification of public health services in Wales. This statement included the following announcements1:

  • The establishment, in shadow form from 1 August and fully operational from 1 October, of a new Trust to be known as Public Health Wales
  • The incorporation in Public Health Wales of the functions and services provided by the National Public Health Service for Wales, the Wales Centre for Health, the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, the Congenital Anomalies Register and Information Service, and Screening Services Wales
  • The appointment of Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB as Chair of Public Health Wales (and Chair Designate with immediate effect) following a public appointments process
  • The Board of Public Health Wales will comprise seven non-executive directors and five executive directors
  • The non-executive directors will have experience of local government, trade unions, the third sector and Welsh universities. There will also be two independent non-executive directors
  • Of the five executive directors, there will be a Chief Executive, a Director of Finance and the roles of the other three will be at the discretion of the Board
  • The new Director of Public Health posts will be employed by the Health Boards and will be an integral part of the public health system
  • Mrs Hart stated: -Public Health Wales will build upon the success of its constituent services and will provide the national resources for effective delivery of public health services at national, local and community level.

    Public Health Wales, formally launched on February 1 2010, has four statutory functions:

  • To provide and manage a range of public health, health protection, healthcare improvement, health advisory, child protection and microbiological laboratory services and services relating to the surveillance, prevention and control of communicable diseases;
  • To develop and maintain arrangements for making information about matters related to the protection and improvement of health in Wales available to the public; to undertake and commission research into such matters and to contribute to the provision and development of training in such matters;
  • To undertake the systematic collection, analysis and dissemination of information about the health of the people of Wales in particular including cancer incidence, mortality and survival; and prevalence of congenital anomalies; and
  • To provide, manage, monitor, evaluate and conduct research into screening of health conditions and screening of health related matters.
  • As an integrated public health organisation, Public Health Wales is in good position to help tackle the serious public health issues in the Principality, working in close partnership with Health Boards, other statutory and voluntary organisations, and the communities of Wales.

    References

    1. howis.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/, last accessed 1 March 2010.
    2. www.wales.nhs.uk/documents/health-status-wales-e.pdf

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