Organisational background

Public Health Scotland, abbreviated as ‘PHS’ throughout this notice, is Scotland’s national body for improving and protecting health and wellbeing. It was created for the whole of Scotland under section 2 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 (“the 1978 Act”).

The 1978 Act places a duty on PHS to promote the improvement of the physical and mental health of the people of Scotland and engage in activities which PHS considers likely to assist in discharging that duty. It allows PHS to cooperate with other special health boards, local health boards, NHS National Services Scotland and Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

PHS is a knowledge-based and intelligence driven organisation with a critical reliance on data and information to enable it to be an independent voice for the public’s health, leading collaboratively and effectively across the Scottish public health system, accountable at local and national levels, and providing leadership and focus for achieving better health and wellbeing outcomes for the population. It has a key leadership, intelligence and innovation role in developing a whole system approach to improving and protecting the public’s health, with an increasing focus on early intervention, self-management, preventing ill health and reducing health inequalities. These are outlined in the policy note which describes the establishment PHS.

PHS carries out its duties by working collaboratively across the whole public health system - with local communities, third sector organisations, and other public sector organisations such as local health and social care partnerships, local authorities, community planning partnerships, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland to address Scotland’s public health challenges which include relative poor health, significant and persistent inequalities in health outcomes, and unsustainable pressures on health and social care services.

The functions of Public Health Scotland (PHS) are set out in law - the Public Health Scotland Order 2019. This legislation empowers PHS to:

  • Provide health education – helping individuals and communities improve their health by increasing their knowledge or influencing their attitudes
  • Provide research and development services in the field of public health which include, for example, understanding the burden of premature death and disability for major disease and disease groups, impact of specialist drug treatment and care, monitoring of drug related harm, clinical trials, and health and care experience survey
  • Collect, analyse and disseminate epidemiological data (e.g. flu, cancer, heart disease and strokes) and participate in epidemiological investigations
  • Process data relating to prescriptions for drugs, medicines and appliances
  • Provide information services in support of the functions of PHS
  • Protect public health, as specified in the Public Health etc. (Scotland) Act 2008
  • Carry out tasks that support the powers of Scottish Ministers as specified in paragraph 4(2) of the Public Health Scotland Order 2019 and these include:
    • Collaborate with third sector organisations whose activities are similar to those of PHS
    • Form bodies corporate for providing relevant services under the 1978 Act
    • Provide services that support the prevention of illness, the care of persons suffering from illness, and the after-care of such persons
    • Work with laboratories for controlling the spread of infectious diseases
    • Engage in, and support, research into any matter relating to the causation, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of illness
Last updated: 06 October 2022