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The establishment of the UK Voluntary Register for Public Health Specialists is the culmination of four years work by the Tripartite Group, in collaboration with many other organisations and individuals in public health.

The Tripartite Group

Faculty of Public Health
Multidisciplinary Public Health Forum
Royal Institute of Public Health

Early in 1998, the Faculty of Public Health Medicine (now the Faculty of Public Health), the Multidisciplinary Public Health Forum and the Royal Institute of Public Health made an agreement to work together towards a system of multidisciplinary accreditation, for public health professionals. This arose out of concern that many disciplines play a key part in public health, at government, community and individual level, but that the skills of many such professionals are neither fully appreciated nor systemically developed. The Faculty, the Forum and the Royal Institute therefore drew up a joint statement of intent, in February 1998, setting out their determination to develop a multidisciplinary body of trained and competent public health professionals.

This initiative attracted broad support, including that of former Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Kenneth Calman, who agreed to chair the project's Advisory Group. The group was composed of representatives from a broad range of disciplines including environmental health, nursing, medicine and health promotion and organisations including the Health Development Agency, the NHS Executive, the Department of Health and other government departments and also relevant personnel from all four UK nations.

In October 1998, a feasibility study was undertaken, to assess the case for national standards for specialist practice in public health. The report of this study concluded that there was a demand from employers and employees for standards, that would define the core of specialist practice and inform the development of appropriate skills; there was also a strong demand for national standards to support the accreditation of individual practitioners.

The project was supported by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson and was strengthened by a Government announcement in 1999 that a new post of specialist in public health was to be created (Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation 11.25).

Following on from this, Healthwork UK, the National Training Organisation for Health, was commissioned to develop the national standards. The project was funded by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, on behalf of all four 1997 Education Act Regulatory Authorities and the Departments of Health of all four UK nations. The initial phase consisted of an exercise to map the public health function and to make preliminary proposals on the implications for competencies and national standards. Following an extensive consultation, the standards were refined and they are now approved and finalised and in use in senior appointments.

The standards cover the ten key areas of public health practice:

Surveillance and assessment of the population's health and well-being.
Promoting and protecting the population's health and well-being.
Developing quality and risk management within an evaluative culture.
Collaborative working for health and well-being.
Developing health programmes and services and reducing inequalities.
Policy and strategy development and implementation.
Working with and for communities.
Strategic leadership for health and well-being.
Research and development.
Ethically managing self, people and resources.

Once the standards were established, the Tripartite Group began to work on the development of a register for public health specialists, who could meet the standards. It was intended that this would be voluntary in the first instance, and that it could entail dual registration for those working in professions already governed by statutory registration. A consultation exercise on the setting up of a register was undertaken, with positive results. Out of 828 responses, 639 said that they would wish to join a voluntary register of public health specialists.

In November 2001, Lord Hunt, Minister of Health, indicated strong Government support for the development of standards for specialists, and for practitioners and for the establishment of a register.

Early in 2003, the Departments of Health for all four UK countries undertook to support the development of a register for public health specialists. Their primary purpose in doing so was to provide public protection by ensuring that only competent public health specialists would be registered and that high standards of practice would be maintained. In March 2003, Public Health Minister for England, Hazel Blears, announced at the Annual Public Health Forum in Cardiff, that the register was about to be launched and that this venture had strong Government backing.

On 27th May 2003, Professor Jim McEwen chaired the inaugural meeting of the Joint Board, which is multidisciplinary and independent. The Board's first task was to appoint and train the multidisciplinary assessment panels; there are now four fully trained teams. The meetings of the Joint Board are now held on a monthly basis and the members consist of an independent chair, two nominees from each of the Multidisciplinary Public Health Forum, the Royal Institute of Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health, one representative from each of the following six related regulatory bodies: Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, General Dental Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Health Professions Council, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, General Medical Council, a co-opted representative of Primary Care Trust Directors of Public Health and observers from the four UK Health Departments.

An Advisory Group that gives advice and opinion to the Joint Board has been established. This will ensure that groups from all sectors, for example, the NHS, local government, voluntary organisations, and higher education, in addition to professional organisations with an interest in the public health workforce, will be able to influence the direction of the register.

The register as at June 2006, has over 100 registrants. These have come through a number of routes on to the register: through portfolio assessment (generalists), through the standard Faculty of Public Health training route, provisional registration for Directors of Public Health, and those who are on the specialist registers of the GDC and GMC in public health medicine or public health dentistry who may apply through dual registration under an arrangement with these organisations.

Please refer to the register section for an application form.

Latest News

UK Public Health Register

As of 1 February 2008 the UK Voluntary Register for Public Health Specialists will be know as the UK Public Health Register.


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