Durham County Council’s public health team went through the review and re-structure process in 2017. The team transitioned from the NHS to the council in 2013 and the review was needed to help the team be more embedded within the council.
The review looked at both the team’s priorities in terms of their public health work and the workforce profile and structure. The Standards for employers of public health teams in England were used alongside Faculty of Public Health guidance to help inform this work.
Highlights of progress
The team used the Standards as a benchmark to check whether their re-structure plans were meeting the appropriate professional standards in terms of the team structure and expectations of public health staff as set out in job descriptions and person specifications. The Director of Public Health used the Standards as a checklist to compare their job descriptions and person specifications against and ensure they covered everything they needed.
The Standards were then referenced in the Context Statement where the re-structure plans were set out and the rationale for particular roles and levels provided. The Standards were referenced to explain that the proposed future team structure was aligned with them in terms of skills and knowledge, continued professional development and registration, and accountability.
By using the Standards in this way, the team was able to demonstrate and communicate that their re-structure plans followed the best practice. This gave them confidence that they were on the right track, but also strengthened their argument for the proposed re-structure process internally within the council.
The team are still in the process of appointing staff to some new posts and therefore feel it would be too early to carry out a full Audit of the team using the Standards. However, they thought such an audit may become appropriate and useful in a couple of years’ time, when the team has had a chance to settle in their new structure. At that point, it may be useful to review the team again to see if the priorities are being adhered to and if there are any gaps in terms of meeting the Standards for public health workforce.
Lessons and key messages
The key benefits of using the Standards have been to ensure their proposed re-structure plans were aligned with the professional best practice and communicate this within the council. This helped explain the rationale for their re-structure plans and give weight to their proposals.