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The public health reform programme reached an important milestone on 14 June with the publication of new public health priorities for Scotland.  As programme and policy director, I’d like to take the opportunity of this first blog entry to reflect on the progress that is being made and to look forward to what will be a challenging and exciting next 12 months, as we accelerate work to deliver our new public health body - Public Health Scotland - in 2019.

This new blog allows members of the reform team and other guests to provide updates and insights on the delivery of Public Health Scotland, bringing together a range of different voices and perspectives.  For my part, as deputy chair of the programme board, I intend to publish a monthly entry shortly after each programme board meeting, setting out the themes and substance of these important discussions.

At our June programme board, members discussed progress to date.  Although not always visible, the reform programme has made significant gains in a relatively short period of time. Over the past 12 months, we have agreed a vision for reform, established an oversight and programme board, developed a blueprint and initiated a range of commissions to help shape and design the new body. Most recently, we have launched Scotland’s public health priorities, meeting the first of three specific commitments set out in the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan.

The focus of our activity now increasingly turns to implementing the last two such commitments - supporting local partnerships and establishing Public Health Scotland.

This work is now in full flow through the dedicated commissioning process. The programme team have deliberately designed a collaborative approach, with those leading the commissions drawn from a broad range of national and local representatives.  

It is important that each of the commissions – and those leading the commissions - are able to evidence and demonstrate the needs of stakeholders across the whole system, as they develop solutions for closer collaboration.  So in addition to refocusing national leadership, the commissions have been created to focus Public Health Scotland on providing the right direction, data and intelligence needed at local level as well.

But it is also important to say that this commissioned work is not the same as coming up with a detailed plan for the redesign of the whole system of public health in Scotland. Delivering a new body is simply the starting point for that journey and wider whole system reform will not be completed by the end of 2019.  With this in mind, a new policy team for wider public health reform has been established within Scottish Government to lead the medium-term work of aligning national strategy and policy around the new public health priorities.

Looking ahead through July, our oversight board will consider the best legal means to create the new body and ensure it has meaningful accountability to both national and local government. Subject to agreement from Scottish Ministers and COSLA Leaders, this work will represent another important milestone for the reform programme and will allow us to quickly begin the recruitment process for the new Board and Chief Executive.  We are hopeful that related appointments can start taking place as early as January next year.  This will help to create the certainty and focus needed to begin the formal process of recruiting and appointing the senior management team for the new body in early 2019.

As the pace of work increases over the coming months, many decisions will be needed.  As deputy chair of the programme board, I will ensure we remain fixed on our core purpose and ambition to improve healthy life expectancy and reduce inequalities across Scotland, in order to create a Scotland where everybody thrives.

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