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This note sets out the main statutory duties for public health that were conferred on local authorities by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The note includes information on public health funding; how local authorities have been spending their ring-fenced public health grants; and on accountability arrangements.

Local authorities have, since 1 April 2013, been responsible for improving the health of their local population and for public health services including most sexual health services and services aimed at reducing drug and alcohol misuse. The Secretary of State continues to have overall responsibility for improving health – with national public health functions delegated to Public Health England.

Health is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland although the devolved administrations currently retain substantially the same legislative framework.

In addition to their new public health responsibilities, local authority social services have existing duties to provide welfare services such as residential accommodation for those who are in need of care, because of age, illness or disability, which they cannot otherwise obtain. Primary health needs continue to be met by the NHS and disputes can arise over whether an individual’s care should be paid for by the NHS or by the local authority on a means tested basis. The Library note, NHS Continuing Healthcare in England, provides information about the division of responsibilities between local authorities and the NHS.

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