Minister for Health welcomes establishment of oversight group to implement new model of public health medicine

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has welcomed the establishment of a Group to oversee the implementation of a new model of public health medicine.

The group was established following publication of the Crowe Horwath Report on the Role, Training and Career Structures of Public Health Physicians in Ireland in December.

The Implementation Oversight Group, which will be led by the Department of Health, includes representation from across the HSE, including from the National Cancer Control Programme and the National Screening Programme. It also includes representation from HIQA, the National Cancer Registry, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and academia.

This wide representation also reflects Dr Gabriel Scally’s recommendation, contained in his report on the National Cervical Screening Programme, that the skills of public health physicians be more appropriately deployed at the core of all public health programmes so that they contribute at leadership level across the health service.

Welcoming the commencement of this process, Minister Harris said: “This is a time of significant change and reform within the Irish health system, encompassing the implementation of Sláintecare, the continued development of Healthy Ireland and the need to maintain ongoing focus on strengthening clinical governance and ensuring patient safety. Against this background, the Speciality of Public Health Medicine needs to be substantially reformed and strengthened.”

“While the surveillance and control of infectious disease is the dominant activity for most public health doctors today, the future role, as envisaged under Sláintecare, will require public health practitioners to have a more holistic role within the health system, encompassing population health needs assessment, health intelligence and research, the development of evidence-based models of care, and the provision of leadership around the implementation of new service delivery models.”

The Crowe Horwath Report also found that, with a significant number of current public health specialists due to retire within the next 5-10 years, the current status and remuneration available to senior public health doctors will make it difficult for Irish employers to recruit within a competitive global medical labour market. 

It recommended that serious consideration be given to awarding public health specialists consultant status under the new model. The process now underway will address the issue of consultant status for specialists in Public Health Medicine, in line with the recommendations contained within both the Crowe Horwath and Scally Reports. 

Minister Harris noted that “These new public health roles will actively contribute to the development and implementation of the Regional Integrated Care Organisations envisaged under Sláintecare and will share responsibility for ensuring that the work of these Organisations is evidence-based and delivered in a cost-effective manner.”

“They will also be involved in restructuring health protection activities, setting standards and policies at national level and ensuring that health protection surveillance and response activities are delivered in a coordinated, systematic and consistent manner across all regions.”

The Crowe Horwath Review of Public Health Physicians in Ireland is available on the Department of Health website

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