A new report, published today by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), has found that at least 15 million people contribute to the public health agenda in England – ranging from police and fire personnel, to opticians and housing officers.
Understanding the wider public health workforce in England, which is the first report of its kind to look at the wider public health workforce, was commissioned by the Department of Health (DH), Health Education England (HEE) and Public Health England (PHE). It identifies the size and scope of this workforce, provides examples of its work and considers possible professional development needs for strengthening this important service.
Through data analysis and extensive engagement with those working in various public health settings, the CfWI and RSPH were able to reach an estimate of the numbers of workers (by headcount) currently employed in roles that give them the opportunity to positively impact health and wellbeing through their work. Up to another 5 million people provide unpaid services.
The report reveals that the wider public health workforce can be found across the public, private and third sectors, in a broad range of organisations and professions as paid employees and volunteers. This includes social care providers, police and fire services, housing and education, sports and leisure, local communities, as well as a wide breadth of healthcare workforces such as allied health professionals, pharmacists and midwives.
RSPH Chief Executive Officer, Shirley Cramer, and CfWI Managing Director, Greg Allen, commented:
“This report comes at a time when the reorganisation of the public health workforce in England, the presence of public health within local government and ongoing demands on the health system, mean that there is a unique opportunity to encourage the more non-traditional public health workforce to have a greater role in improving the nation’s health and wellbeing.
This is wholly consistent with the NHS Five Year Forward View (NHS England, 2014) which sets out a challenging vision for the future of the NHS and the public health system, including a call for a ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’.”
In order to build on this analysis the CfWI and the RSPH have made a number of suggestions to PHE, HEE and the DH, which seek to help inform their future workforce planning policy decisions around the wider public health workforce.
These suggestions include:
- championing the disparate workforces and building opportunities to share best practice;
- improving the quality of wider workforce interventions and recognising its achievements;
- continuing to research and gather evidence to demonstrate the value of the workforce and the progress it is making.