By Matt Lowther, Head of Communities and Local Partners at PHS

Scotland’s poor health record, particularly when compared to our UK and European neighbours, was largely what instigated the current reform of our public health system. The 2015 public health review made a number of significant and radical recommendations - including the formation of Public Health Scotland (PHS). It identified important themes that are integral to a well-functioning and effective public health system. These included:

  • the importance of both national and local perspectives, and the need for greater co-ordination between these different levels;
  • the desire for stronger leadership from individuals and organisations, and in partnership areas including integrated joint boards and community planning partnerships; and
  • the fundamental importance of effective partnership working in order to be effective. 

Fast forward six years and PHS is now in place, with accountability to both Scottish Government and COSLA. This joint accountability recognises the hugely significant role local government and other key local partners play in improving and protecting health, and it came into sharp focus following COVID-19.

Localised working programme

There is now a determination in PHS to increase and broaden out the services we offer on a local and regional basis. Helping local partners access high quality data, intelligence, modelling and public health advice is key to them improving the health and wellbeing of their local communities. The timing is right to scale up our locally-focused work where we can help to better connect national, regional and local systems. 

Our 2021-22 delivery plan states that we will design an enhanced local offering for partners, which draws together high quality data, intelligence, modelling and public health advice to improve the health of the public in all parts of Scotland. To deliver this we will need to work collectively across PHS and draw upon the skills, expertise and services from our entire organisation. To help drive this forward we have established a programme of work called the Localised Working Programme (LWP). 

In simple terms, localised working means supporting local and regional systems to improve community health and wellbeing, design and scope achievable and sustainable change, and add value to local expertise through our public health expertise, products and services.

A lot of local working is already taking place across PHS, and the LWP will focus on how best we bring this together. We have already been working with local systems and their leaders to better understand what support they require and how best to deliver this. This will allow PHS to be clear about all we have to offer our local partners. 

Connecting good work, learning and knowledge

Through the LWP we aim to share learning and make best use of work at a national and regional level, while also supporting local systems and public health priorities. There is still a lot of work to be done but it is likely to include locally-placed resources working alongside our local public health teams providing a range of skills and services we know our local partners need.

These include:

  • accessing, managing and interpreting data;
  • accessing and providing evidence about what works to improve health;
  • evaluating the impact of a service, policy or programme;
  • assessing, understanding and articulating the health impacts of a proposed service, programme or policy; 
  • place-based working focussing on community needs and priorities; and
  • links across wider PHS teams providing access to key services.

Ultimately, our vision is that every community planning partnership, local authority and health and social care partnership in Scotland can access good quality public health advice and support tailored to their specific needs. This will ensure communities, third sector and public sector organisations work together to improve health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities within local communities. 

If you would like to find out more about localised working or want to get involved please get in touch at PHS.LocalisedWorking@phs.scot

Last updated: 13 June 2022