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Duncan Selbie's Friday message 20 October 2017

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Dear everyone

Each year PHE has an annual accountability review and this was on Tuesday, with Steve Brine MP, Minister for Public Health and Primary Care. We covered a broad range of priorities, from our local impact to our national and international responsibilities. The minister conveyed his warm thanks and appreciation to PHE staff for all they do, often quietly and unseen, and that he was as proud of PHE’s work as I am.

Last Friday colleagues from across the health and care sector came together in Darlington for the fourth annual North of England inequalities conference, Due North, for a day of powerful and optimistic conversations. People who are affluent live longer and in better health for longer and those who are least affluent experience the opposite. This is a question of deprivation rather than geography, save there is more deprivation in the north, for example the gap in good health between Bradford and Guildford sits at 20 years. Improving on this is at the forefront of work across the north and this year the focus was on inclusive growth, creating jobs which local people can get and sharing prosperity more widely. Inclusivity though is wider than jobs. It is a way of thinking, planning and acting in support of the most deprived communities - starting with their energies as assets rather than services which address deficits. You can watch a video from the Right Honourable Alan Milburn which sets the tone and objectives of the conference and is well worth a watch.

This week I also had the pleasure of spending time with Oldham Metropolitan Council and local GPs as part of my visit programme around England. Last week I was with Hampshire County Council and continue to learn from the great practice happening on the ground, making a positive difference to people’s lives. Whatever the structure or strategy of the time, nothing compensates for investing in relationships at local level and in Oldham and Hampshire, this is exactly what they are doing. Their focus is on people living in places and widening the opportunities for them, helping people to get into work and being as healthy as they can be in life, which speaks exactly to the duty returned to local government in 2013 to improve the health of the people, and to clinical commissioning groups to reduce inequalities. The insight this gives me in my national role is priceless and helps to keep me grounded and I am continuously grateful to local government and the local NHS for being so welcoming.

On Monday we published a new local authority public health dashboard, aimed at supporting local politicians and senior council officers in their decision making on a range of public health responsibilities. The areas covered include the best start in life, child obesity, drug and alcohol treatment, NHS Health Checks, sexual health services and tobacco control. This is an initial version and we are looking for feedback on how to improve this for a final design to be published next summer. More information on the dashboard can be found in our blog.

Antimicrobial resistance is on the national risk register for the UK and a global priority for the World Health Organization. Antibiotics save lives and speed up recovery, but they are often prescribed when not necessary and asked for by members of the public for conditions and problems they are not appropriate for. On Monday, PHE will be launching our first public information campaign on the safe and effective use of antibiotics, called Keep Antibiotics Working. This campaign was piloted to great effect in the North West of England and the learning from this has informed the national roll out. The aim is to impart knowledge to the public about when antibiotics do and do not work and to help GPs and hospital doctors when prescribing and in their discussions with patients. Please look out for this.

And finally, you may have seen this week a new report from Swim England’s Swimming and Health Commission, promoting the good swimming does and the opportunities it presents for all people, especially young people, to learn about what makes for success in life, including goal setting, coping with stress and social interaction. This is yet another reminder of how getting active every day has benefits for your heart, bones and brain at every age.

With best wishes,





Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK

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