Directors of Public Health

As Directors of Public Health for Cheshire and Merseyside, we are committed to working effectively to achieve better health outcomes. We are very proud of our nationally recognised collaborative way of working which brings great benefits for all.

We look forward to building on the achievements made to date and to continue working together with our public health teams and partners to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities and reduce health inequalities.

  • Matthew Ashton
    Matthew Ashton
    Director of Public Health – Liverpool City Council
    Liverpool City Council
    Cunard Building
    Water Street
    L3 1AH
    Tel: 0151 233 1106

    Liverpool – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Frazer Lake – Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health

    Director of Public Health Lead: Strategic Intelligence & Partnerships, Employment & Skills, Communications and Workforce & CPD, LCR Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)

    Prof Ashton was appointed Director of Public Health for Liverpool City Council in April 2020 and is also Honorary Professor, Department of Public Health and Policy, University of Liverpool.

    He leads a team of 30 people covering a range of public health activities including the commissioning of public health services, health protection, health improvement, health care public health, embedding health in all policies approaches and addressing the wider determinants of health.

    Prof Ashton is passionate about bringing together the best people and partnerships in the region to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities in the communities we serve.

    Prof Ashton is the programme director for the Liverpool Health Partners Live Well programme, and also works closely with other directors of public health across Cheshire and Merseyside, as part of the CHAMPS public health collaborative, leading on Strategic Intelligence and Research, Communications, Social Marketing, and Strategic Partnerships.  Prof Ashton is also the lead Director of Public Health for the Liverpool City Region Violence Reduction Partnership, and for Food Active.

  • Ian Ashworth
    Ian Ashworth
    Director of Public Health Cheshire West and Chester
    1st Floor, HQ,
    58 Nicholas Street,
    CH1 2NP

    Cheshire West and Chester – Public Health Annual Report 

    Elected Member – Cllr Val Armstrong – Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health

    Director of Public Health Lead: Sexual Health Commissioning Pilot

    Ian was appointed Director of Public Health for Cheshire West and Chester Council in June 2017.

    He has a background in delivering nationally recognised health improvement programmes within Local Authorities and NHS Trusts across the North West. Having completed his MPH at the University of Liverpool in 2009, Ian then commenced specialist public health training across Greater Manchester in 2010.

    Joining Salford City Council’s Public Health team in 2014, he was responsible for leading and managing the directorates commissioning spend and its innovative arrangement with Salford CCG. As the prevention lead for Salford’s nationally recognised integrated care system, his leadership resulted in the City achieving the World Health Organisation Age Friendly City status and enabled it to become a successful demonstrator site for the National Diabetes Prevention programme.

    Ian is now responsible for developing vibrant and healthy communities across Cheshire West and Chester with the aim of increasing inclusive leisure, heritage and culture opportunities recognising the many health benefits that this creates.

    As a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and the lead DPH for sexual health in Cheshire and Merseyside, Ian is also overseeing the national Public Health England pilot for collaborative sexual health commissioning.


  • Margaret Jones
    Margaret Jones
    Director of Public Health – Sefton Council
    Director of Public Health
    Sefton Council
    Magdalen House
    Trinity Road
    L20 3NJ

    Sefton Council – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Ian Moncur – Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing

    Margaret Jones was appointed Director of Public Health for Sefton MBC in September 2020. Margaret is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and was the North West Faculty Adviser from 2017 to 2022.

    Margaret trained as a dietitian at the Queens College Glasgow and subsequently worked Walton hospital and in Liverpool Community Services. There she developed a more public health focused post, completing an MSC in health promotion and leading on community food interventions including the introduction of one of the UK’s first food worker projects.

    Margaret joined the North West Specialist Public Health training programme in 1999 where her main focus of work was on children and young people and food policy. She Joined Sefton Public Health in 2005 as a consultant, initially specialising in children and maternity and Healthcare Public Health, she has also led the commissioning of sexual health and drug and alcohol services. She was the lead educational supervisor in Sefton until 2020.

    Margaret is the DPH lead for work to tackle alcohol misuse.

  • Ruth du Plessis
    Ruth du Plessis
    Director of Public Health – St Helens
    St Helens Council
    Public Health
    Atlas House
    Corporation Street
    St Helens, WA9 1LD
    Tel: 01744 673232

    St Helens – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Anthony Burns – Portfolio Holder for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage

    Ruth du Plessis began her career as a nurse and health visitor in Sefton after training at Liverpool University. She spent a few years living and volunteering in South Africa, providing palliative care to HIV/AIDS patients in a remote area.

    After returning to the UK with a desire to influence change at a structural level she studied for a Masters in Applied Public Health. Ruth then worked as a development manager for cardiovascular disease as part of Sefton’s public health team. At this time she also took on a part time secondment as Merseyside Diabetes Manager.

    Ruth then moved to a position with the Champs Support Team as Health Care Programme Lead for Cheshire and Merseyside. Here, Ruth was successful at obtaining a place on the Training Scheme to become a Consultant in Public Health.

    During her training she worked at Tameside on sexual health and suicide prevention, at the National Institute for Health and Care (NICE) on workplace health and at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) teaching international public health and working on malaria prevention.

    Ruth joined St Helens Council whilst still a registrar in 2017, initially working on social prescribing and early help. Following completion of her training she took on the lead roles of public health on sexual health, children’s health, workplace health and mental health. Most recently she has led part of the pandemic response, managing the contact tracing team, outbreak management and targeted testing.

    Ruth is passionate about reducing health inequalities, relieving suffering, prevention being better than cure and evidence-based practice.

  • Dr Sarah McNulty
    Dr Sarah McNulty
    Director of Public Health – Knowsley Council
    5th Floor
    Municipal Building
    Archway Road
    L36 9YU

    Knowsley – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Sean Donnelly – Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care

    Chair of Directors of Public Health Executive Board

    Sarah McNulty is Assistant Executive Director (Public Health) / Director of Public Health, with Knowsley Council. 

    Sarah is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health. She originally studied medicine at Leeds University and, after initially training in general practice in Yorkshire and Liverpool, trained in Public Health in Cheshire and Merseyside.

    Sarah joined Public Health Knowsley in 2009, initially specialising in Health Protection and Healthcare Public Health.  Since June 2019 she has been Director of Public Health. 

    Sarah has led a number of cross-sector programmes and is the Champs DPH Lead for Screening and Immunisations, Diabetes and High Blood Pressure. She is also the Co-Chair of the Merseyside Local Health Resilience Partnership (LHRP).

  • Dr Ifeoma Onyia
    Dr Ifeoma Onyia
    Director of Public Health – Halton
    Halton Borough Council
    Public Health Dept
    Runcorn Town Hall
    Heath Road
    WA7 5TD
    Tel: 0151 511 6738

    Halton – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Marie Wright – Portfolio holder for Health and Wellbeing

    Dr Ifeoma Onyia is Director of Public Health with Halton Borough Council.

    Ifeoma (pronounced ee-for-ma) is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health. She originally studied medicine in Nigeria and trained in general practice across Yorkshire, Cheshire and Merseyside before completing her public health training also in Cheshire and Merseyside.

    Ifeoma has worked as a Consultant in Public Health for the NHS in Wirral and Stoke-on-Trent before joining Halton in 2013, leading on Healthcare Public Health, Intelligence and Governance. With her team she is focused on tackling the impacts of COVID-19 on the local population, maintaining a stable, vibrant innovative public health workforce and embracing the opportunities for improving health for Halton people.

    Ifeoma also has an NIHR funded role to build public health research capacity in Local Authorities and working with others recently launched the Cheshire and Merseyside Public Health Research Hub.

    In her spare time she enjoys reading, creative writing, running and walking, though not necessarily in that order.

  • Thara Raj
    Thara Raj
    Director of Public Health – Warrington Council
    1st Floor New Town House
    Buttermarket Street
    Warrington, WA1 2NH
    Tel: 01925 444094

    Warrington – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Maureen McLaughlin – Cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing

    Thara Raj took up the position of Director of Public Health for Warrington in August 2020, right in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is however very used to rolling up her sleeves up and getting on with immense health protection challenges, as her previous work in the South West of England saw her play a key advisory role during the 2018 Salisbury and Amesbury poisonings as a Consultant in Health Protection. She worked on the first UK case of monkeypox, and has also been Public Health England’s London lead for Immunisations.

    As a corporate director for Warrington Borough Council, Thara leads on public health and communities and neighbourhoods, Environmental Health, Trading standards and Licensing as well as Housing standards and Homelessness.

    Thara has led public health programmes for 30 years in Derbyshire, Sheffield and Bristol, where she also led on community safety for the council. Thara worked in Newham during the Olympics where she improved public health outcomes by day and by night rehearsed for the London 2012 opening ceremony as a pandemonium drummer. She has held national roles including for NICE and has worked for WHO in the Copenhagen Office.

    Thara lives in Warrington and has a daughter who goes to school in Warrington and has been getting to know the area by foot, bicycle and on her 500cc Royal Enfield motorbike.

    Thara is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow. She was in the first cohort of the 21st century public servant programme at the University of Birmingham and has joined the teaching team.


  • Dr Matt Tyrer
    Dr Matt Tyrer
    Acting Director of Public Health, Cheshire East Council
    Middlewich Road
    CW11 1HZ
    Tel: 01270 686883

    Cheshire East – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Jill Rhodes – Cabinet Member for Public Health

    Matt leads the public health team at Cheshire East Council. Before becoming the Director of Public Health he led on health protection and the wider determinants of health as a Consultant in Public Health at Cheshire East Council since 2017. Before beginning his career in public health in 2013 Matt worked as a junior doctor. He gained his Masters in Public Health from the University of Birmingham in 2014 and worked in public health teams across the West Midlands before joining Cheshire and Merseyside. He is focussed on building sustainable communities and places, built on sound public health intelligence, in order to reduce inequity and to bring people and neighbourhoods together to address the wider determinants of health and wellbeing.

    Matt is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and an Honorary Lecturer in Public Health at Keele University, he is also an examiner for Keele Medical School.

  • Julie Webster
    Julie Webster
    Director for Health and Wellbeing (DPH) – Wirral
    Cheshire Lines Building,
    Canning Street,
    CH41 1ND

    Wirral – Public Health Annual Report

    Elected Member – Cllr Yvonne Nolan, Chair Adult Social Care and Public Health Committee

    Director of Public Health Lead: Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Contact Tracing Hub

    Julie was appointed as Director of Public Health in October 2019. Julie’s career in Public Health began in 1998 and she has worked for the NHS and local councils across Cheshire and Merseyside. She has a particular interest in the use of insight to develop public health interventions and is a strong advocate of social justice and the role of the citizen in local services. Julie has been the DPH lead for the DHSC Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Contact Tracing Hub.