With just ten months to the launch of Public Health Scotland, work behind the scenes to deliver a new era for public health is stepping up a gear. Shadow Chair, Jim McGoldrick, is now in post, tasked with bringing together national public health expertise and moulding a new organisation that will work across Scotland to improve and protect the nation’s health and reduce stubborn inequalities…
Scotland’s public health challenges are well known. We have poor health as a nation relative to other parts of the UK and Europe and persistent inequalities in health outcomes - between and within communities. It’s an issue which has a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of our public services, the most significant of which lies with individuals and communities, with too many of our citizens unable to realise their full potential.
None of this is inevitable and as a nation we can do something about it. This is why I am excited and honoured to be taking up post as Shadow Chair for Public Health Scotland and will be working hard over the coming weeks and months to lay the foundations for the new organisation and make sure we get off to the best possible start. It’s encouraging to see an extensive amount of work has already been completed and I am already hugely impressed by the progress we have made to date.
I’m excited by the drive and commitment evident from colleagues, people and organisations across the country who have contributed to shaping the new body and sharing their views and perspectives on how Public Health Scotland can work with them to tackle our key public health challenges, including Scotland’s Public Health Priorities.
The progress and momentum made to date is something we need to build on as the work to establish Public Health Scotland gains pace. The organisation will bring together expertise in health improvement, health protection and population care. It will have at its disposal the knowledge and expertise to utilise data, research and evidence more effectively and support the wider public health workforce.
These national assets and resources need to be used in the right way to drive the transformation we wish to see in Scotland’s health. The leadership ambition for the new organisation does not mean that Public Health Scotland will be the sole organisation that solves the problems we face.
Instead it means we need to create an organisation that supports and enables others in the public health system to take action together, working with national and local government, local partnerships, communities, families and individuals.
If we are to deliver an influential and impactful organisation, establishing the right senior leadership team will be important and this will be my immediate focus coming into post. I am delighted we have progressed recruitment of a Chief Executive and established a Shadow Executive Management Team to support me in this process.
It’s important that we get this right. As Shadow Chair, I am keen that we take the time to reflect and respond to our staff and partners aspirations for the new body and learn from other organisations who have gone through a similar process.
During any period of major change comes a degree of trepidation about what lies ahead and that’s entirely understandable. One thing we should all acknowledge at this stage is that delivering the change we need is not going to be easy. Public Health Scotland will be working with organisations across the country to identify the best ways of helping to address local issues.
There will be a huge amount of expertise available to start to fully understand the different issues communities face, but to deliver real change we will need to become greater than our constituent parts. Staff at Public Health Scotland will play a key role in helping to make this work and with their enthusiasm and support we’ll be well placed to make a difference early on.
I believe that we’re faced with once in a generation opportunity to make a decisive change for the better for public health, but to realise that we’ll all need to adapt to an evolving landscape where partners are more important than ever before. I’m confident, though, that with the collective will to make a difference, and working to shared common goals, we can and will deliver for the people of Scotland.