Lancashire council chiefs defend decision to appoint 'non-specialist' as head of public health (From Burnley and Pendle Citizen)
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Lancashire council chiefs defend decision to appoint 'non-specialist' as head of public health
4:02pm Tuesday 27th August 2013 in News
COUNTY council chiefs have defended giving overall responsibility for public health to a ‘non-specialist’.
A national charity said Lancashire County Council’s appointment of Steve Gross as executive director of adult services and public health had ‘driven coach and horses’ through the system of training for public health specialists.
Mr Gross, who has a background as a social worker, has held various roles at the council including director of commissioning and director of adult social care.
John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, told the Health Services Journal: “This is a really serious blow. An untrained, internal candidate has been selected for this job over some of the leading public health people nationally.”
He said the move was part of a ‘dumbing down’ of the status of public health professionals.
The HSJ also quoted an unnamed director of public health, who said they feared what would happen if a director without a public health background had to deal with an outbreak of meningitis or legionella – a scenario for which they had no training.
The council said it still planned to recruit a separate director of public health to be the ‘statutory chief officer’, though Mr Gross will retain ‘overall responsibility’.
Jo Turton, the council’s interim chief executive, said: “We have worked closely with our colleagues at Public Health England and we were delighted to appoint Steve Gross as our executive lead with overall responsibility for adult services and public health.”
Public health includes campaigns around smoking and obesity, as well as initiatives such as the Beez card in Blackburn with Darwen, which offers residents free leisure.
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