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CLG Select Committee health report welcomed

27 March 2013

Richard Blyth.jpg

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which represents 23,000 planners worldwide working in the private, public, education and charity sectors, today welcomed the publication of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on its inquiry into the Role of English local authorities in health issues.

The report welcomed the return of public health responsibilities, and in particular the opportunity for local councils to focus all their activities from education to housing, on the health and wellbeing of their local residents. 

Richard Blyth, Head of Policy Practice and Research, said: "The RTPI is  pleased that the CLG Select Committee has largely reflected our views, highlighting the key role which planning professionals can play on Health and Wellbeing Boards. Furthermore, the report acknowledged the vital role which housing plays in public health, an issue we have constantly sought to push to the front of the public health agenda.

We are also pleased that more guidance has been given on the interrelationships between the various new public health bodies involved in commissioning services, which the Institute had called for in our written evidence. However, we still feel that the report could have gone further in some areas, such as addressing the economic and social benefits of locating health services on High Streets."

What the RTPI said:

Health improvements will not be achieved by improvements in just one part of the system alone, and a whole-system approach to health issues must be adopted.   

  • The Committee notes that councils will 'need to use every power, department and service at their disposal if they are fully to grasp this opportunity and tackle the causes of poor health.'
  • The Committee further recommended that 'the successful operation of Health and Wellbeing Boards is crucial to the new arrangements. Boards should aim to be creative by including where possible those individuals with responsibility for the social determinants of health, including those working in education, planning and economic development.'

A holistic approach to measuring improvements in health issues needs to be introduced across local and national government. 

  • In the RTPI's written submission to the Committee, we stated that: 'The RTPI believes that a holistic approach to measuring performance should be introduced, encompassing aspects of improvement across society, brought about through improvements in the provision of public health. Improvements in public health will lead to wider improvements in areas such as economic recovery for an area, increased employment, and reduced crime rates.'
  • The report notes that 'given the complex, multi-faceted nature of the social determinants of health, determining the success of general - population-wide - or specific initiatives will be difficult, time-consuming and may ultimately distract those working on them from making progress. Short-term success can be demonstrated relatively quickly, and without distracting from longer-term objectives, by, for example, improvement in readiness for school rates, the number of NEETs in a local area and by all HWB members working to increase patient registration with GPs in order to identify those with long-term conditions and to prescribe treatment for them.'

Vital that strategies prepared by health and wellbeing boards are fully taken into account into the commissioning plans of clinical commissioning groups.

  • The Committee noted that the RTPI had pointed out that, although 'the draft guidance on Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies states that the NHS commissioning Board can take action if the [commissioning] plan doesn't take into account the JHWS' but we had pointed out that 'what action can be taken is not laid out'. This issue was later clarified in supplementary written evidence provided by the Government (para 44).

The Eighth Report of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee - The role of local authorities in health issues, can be downloaded here.

For more on planning and health, join our Planning and Health Linkedin Discussion Forum.

Read our written evidence to the Communities and Local Government here.

Read and listen to our Head of Policy, Practice and Research, Richard Blyth, give evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in November 2012.