By Martin Smith, Consultant in Public Health, Champs Support Team
Public health as a discipline is arguably experiencing one of its greatest periods since the advent of the Welfare state in 1948 or indeed the major social reforms of the late 19th Century. The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of high quality, safe public health practice where the health of the population has been recognised as fundamental to the functioning of society.
The public health response to the pandemic has brought many people into new areas of working with the workforce having to be flexible and able to respond to changing needs in the population, evolving evidence to inform practice and ever-evolving policy environments.
That delivery of good practice fundamentally depends on the preparation, training and learning opportunities for a public health workforce to strengthen its purpose, build motivation and support workforce wellbeing. Public health as a discipline needs a multidisciplinary workforce that can develop and sustain itself in a post-pandemic world.
Cheshire and Merseyside has a longstanding history of its commitment to building public health knowledge and skills for all who have a part to play in delivering public health activity. There is a recognition of the non-specialist workforce as well as building the capabilities of our future public health leaders and supporting those people in wider roles who are engaged in some public health activity that can be said to constitute the ‘wider workforce’. That commitment is ongoing in a subregion that is well placed with its appetite for developing innovative practice and capitalising on the links with our local internationally renowned academic institutions.
Seven exciting public health workforce initiatives happening in Cheshire and Merseyside:
1. North West Public Health Practitioner Registration Scheme
The Collaborative has successfully hosted and led the North West Public Health Practitioner Registration Scheme on behalf of Health Education England since its beginning in 2018. Practitioners build a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate their abilities and on completion of the programme can be registered with UK Public Health Register and achieve Practitioner Membership with the Faculty of Public Health. These achievements can provide assurance to employers on the quality of their practice and give validation to the fantastic work that Public Health Practitioners are able to carry out every day. There are over 50 Practitioners from across the North West currently engaged with the programme including many from Cheshire and Merseyside. More information on the Scheme is available here. An Information Session will also be held on Wednesday 9th February 2022, 9.30am – 11.30am. Please email email@example.com to book a place.
2. Public Health Apprenticeship Standard
In addition, the recent development of the Public Health Apprenticeship Standard with a new three-year degree programme at the University of Salford provides an opportunity for junior members of staff who demonstrate potential and interest in a public health career to build their knowledge and skills in a systematic way that is supported with funding through the apprenticeship Levy. Cheshire and Merseyside already has practitioners who joined the first cohort of this degree in early 2021 and the University of Salford is recruiting now for the next cohort in January 2022.
3. Specialist Training for becoming future Consultants in Public Health
For those undertaking Specialist Training for becoming future Consultants in Public Health, Cheshire and Merseyside is a well-renowned training location for Specialty Registrars with a strong reputation for providing a wide range of training placements and opportunities. In addition, the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Health Research provides opportunities for clinical fellows/lectureships that strengthens academic links. Placements for Foundation Year 2 doctors and more recently the opportunity for GPs undertaking a public health placement all contribute to our continuing reputation as a place for high quality specialist public health learning. More information is available here.
4. Specialist Registration via portfolio
As an alternative to the specialist training scheme above, senior public health staff who can demonstrate their knowledge and skills for consultant-level practice can seek Specialist Registration through a portfolio route. This continues to be a useful option and indeed, two senior public health staff from Cheshire and Merseyside have successfully achieved registration through this route in the last six months. More information on this route is available here.
5. Contact tracing training
In December 2020, the Collaborative, together with the UK Health Security Agency (Previously Public Health England) and the University of Liverpool worked closely together to rapidly establish a pilot contact tracing training course. Additional funding will now enable this course to progress in early 2022 for the contact tracing workforce. There is potential to build on this course for more formalised accredited health protection learning with the University of Liverpool to strengthen capability under the future health protection arrangements. In addition, the course’s success has been recognised in other parts of the country and discussions are underway to eventually roll this out nationally. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Strengthening workforce development
The Collaborative has just begun hosting a 12-month project on behalf of Health Education England (HEE) NW and the NW Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) to strengthen public health workforce development particularly for the NHS workforce, with a Project Lead and Project Support to take this programme forward. The project will work closely with the ICS Population Health Programme and aims to strengthen approaches to prevention and addressing health inequalities with support to professionals and organisations for engaging with patient and the wider public’s awareness of their own health and wellbeing and the steps they can take for improvement. For more information contact email@example.com
The provision of CPD (continuous professional development) learning continues to be important with a range of ongoing opportunities available. Keep an eye out for future events here.
7. CPD in priority areas
A recent Training Needs Survey undertaken across the North West by the NW OHID office highlighted a number of priority areas for learning with the intention of providing CPD opportunities. The first of these is a forthcoming workshop on the 1st February 2022 with an ‘Introduction to epidemiology’ Workshop for public health practitioners, provided by the Faculty of Public Health. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is no doubt an exciting time to be part of public health with a workforce that needs to be able to learn and develop its current practitioners and its future leaders to sustain itself and meet the challenges of today and in years to come.