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Barking and Dagenham Public Health report launched as NHS hands baton to Council  

Supporting people to stay healthy, a focus on mental health and strategies to support the care and support of children are among the key recommendations of the Annual Report of the Joint Director of Public Health in Barking and Dagenham.

In Matthew Cole’s just-published report, which was considered and reviewed by senior councillors at their Cabinet meeting held on Tuesday, the Director of Public Health noted the changing landscape as the local authority prepares to pick up the baton on protecting and improving public health from the National Health Service, in line with Government legislation.

From 1st April 2013, the Public Health function formally transfers from the NHS into Barking and Dagenham Council - so this new Annual Report sets out key targets and priorities for the year ahead, as well as informing local people about the health of their community, as well as key information for partner organisations about progress.

Matthew Cole, Director of Public Health comments: “This is a really important report which is published just as the local council begins leading the work on public health which was previously carried out by the NHS. It gives an opportunity to look back and sets out plans and strategies for the future to make Barking and Dagenham a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

“We face the real challenge of improving residents’ health and wellbeing at a time of significant demographic change and financial constraint. These challenges have to be addressed if we are to make sure of a healthier, growing community that is able to prosper and thrive. At the same time as setting out the key work that lies ahead to deliver on this goal, the Report takes account of the changes in structures that will lead and manage what’s expected of us. The new Health and Wellbeing Board - led by Councillor Maureen Worby as Council Cabinet Member for Health - and the emerging Health and Wellbeing Strategy, will guide and hold us to account. It’s an exciting but heavy agenda which will make a real and lasting difference to the people of this borough.”

Key issues highlighted in the report include:- 

•           Support people to stay healthy - the Report highlights the need to make sure that people are supported throughout their lives to keep healthy, active and well. There will be an increasing presumption to assist people to manage long-term conditions. Keeping active and well is a principle focus, with the Report drawing particular attention to community fitness events. The local council has made keeping active a top priority, with investment in top-of-the-range leisure facilities  and development of the ‘Sporting Barking and Dagenham’ brand, building on the borough’s legacy as a Host Borough of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

•           Integration of health and social care - the tightening financial landscape makes bringing together health and social care a top priority within the Report. Key to this goal will be the aim to improve reablement for people who have left hospital, supporting their recovery in the community. The Report highlights the tensions between the NHS ‘universal right to care’ while social care budgets face squeezes which result in eligibility criteria for support being reduced. That said, Barking and Dagenham Council continues to offer social care support at levels which many neighbouring boroughs do not.

•           Children a top focus - the growth in child-age population will inevitably lead to pressures on safeguarding and similar pressures on how services for children and families are developed. The Report calls for children themselves to be engaged in helping design and deliver those services, so that they are truly what’s needed for them. The Report also highlights the need to make sure that older children in the ‘transition’ between receiving support from statutory Children’s and Adults Services are adequately supported as some will fall between the gaps and fail to receive the care they need at a key point in their lives.  The Report also demands that there is absolute clarity on who is responsible for children’s safeguarding issues as the NHS is reorganised by the Coalition Government.

Councillor Maureen Worby, Cabinet Member for Health at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham said: “Last year’s Health & Social Care Act required the Director of Public Health to draft an annual report and a further requirement on the local council to publish it. In doing so, I want to warmly welcome the Report for 2012.

“Now that the new Health and Wellbeing Board is established, the key work of my colleagues within the Council, within the NHS and other partners will be governed by a relentless focus on making sure our growing population has every opportunity to stay well, to keep active and to be supported through changes and challenges in their life. We know that rates of child poverty are higher in our borough than elsewhere. We know too that we have to work hard to reduce relatively high rates of smoking, obesity and low levels of physical activity.

“As the Public Health function transfers from the NHS into the Council, I am determined to make sure that we will be able to point to increased life expectancy in the future closer to the London average and that our population enjoys improved outcomes through truly integrated and innovative health and social care. It is a significant challenge, but one that we look forward to achieving.”