Feature Public Health

Is there a role for acute hospitals in tackling public health?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1325 (Published 07 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1325
  1. Ann McGauran, freelance journalist,
  2. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. 1London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

A number of go-ahead acute hospital trusts in England are proving that public health need not begin and end in the community. Ann McGauran and Nigel Hawkes report

Hospitals have never been reluctant to extend their reach. When primary care trusts in England were ordered to find new homes for their community services, some people thought they might all become social enterprises. A minority did—but nearly three times as many fell into the arms of acute trusts, which acquired 27% of the sector, a share worth £2.3bn (€2.7bn; $3.6bn) a year.

If community care can be compatible with acute care, why not public health? True, the government’s plan is for public health to go to local authorities, with a ring fenced budget of around £5.2bn and a long list of 66 health outcomes for the councils to measure. Public health is meant to keep people out of hospitals, as far as possible, but so is community care. So perhaps it’s no surprise that some acute trusts are seeing the changes in public health as an opportunity.

Next month a national conference on health promotion in hospitals will be held in Manchester, organised by Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and backed by the NHS Confederation. The trust has been a prime mover in establishing the National Health Promotion in Hospitals Audit, which seeks to measure how well hospitals are doing in delivering public health messages to their patients.1 Fifty three trusts took part in the 2009 audit, but only one (unnamed in the …

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