Senior public health officials could be seconded to work in up to 10 Whitehall departments in a bid to better deliver cross-cutting policy objectives, MPs have been told.
Public Health England chief executive Duncan Selbie told a Health Select Committee evidence session that he was in the process of writing to 10 permanent secretaries to propose joint-working arrangements that represented a return to a previous era of co-operation.
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Selbie, who has been at the helm of the Department of Health executive agency since its 2013 inception, said he was keen to reintroduce elements of working arrangements that were in place prior to former-health secretary Andrew Lansley’s coalition era-reforms.
“If you went back two reorganisations ago, when you had regional directors of public health embedded within the Department of Health, they used to have another department that they partnered with,” he said.
“I’ve met with 10 permanent secretaries in the last six months. If you go into [the Department for] Transport, they want to talk about active transport and air quality; if you go into DCMS they want to talk about the sport strategy; you go into Education and they want to talk about the number one thing that would help [public health] if a head teacher if had [an extra] 20 minutes a day.”
Selbie said he was not seeking to impose PHE staff on departments, but wanted to create new working arrangements to help achieve broader shared objectives.
“This is not to say ‘this is what we want you to do’,” he said. “It’s to listen hard to what they’re trying to do [and see] if there’s some way we can help and also join things up.”