Calderdale public health team to focus on less priorities with emphasis of reducing inequalities

A smaller number of priorities, more tightly focused but more deliverable, with an emphasis on reducing inequalities, will be the target for Calderdale’s Public Health team in the coming months.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 1:07 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 1:08 pm
Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins
Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins

The borough’s Director of Public Health, Deborah Harkins, said it would involve recovering the public health function, as for more than a year it had been mainly focused on challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But some things which had been done during the pandemic would form a springboard for getting better outcomes for people, she told members of Calderdale Council’s Adults, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board the focus needed to be on fewer areas where a difference could be made.

This meant a focus on three or four out of more than 25 priorities listed in previous years.

Reducing health and care inequalities – the pandemic had exacerbated these – needed a strong focus.

“We don’t want, the next time a crisis happens, for the impact to be as unfair and unequal as this has been,” said Ms Harkins.

Methods would include working with the NHS and community groups to set objectives and mental health would be a key priority coming out of the pandemic.

The council’s Director of Adults Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines, agreed: “We need to build back fairer as well as better,” he said.

Extra care and supported living were among improvements he hoped would be seen in the year ahead.

Councillors spoke about inequalities they believed needed tackling.

Coun Mike Barnes (Lab, Skircoat) said Active Calderdale, including the Safer Streets programme to encourage exercise and improve air quality around schools, needed more officer engagement and Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) wanted more information about the air quality management areas in the borough.

Related to Safer Streets, Coun Sue Holdsworth (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) and Coun Audrey Smith (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) were both concerned about school crossing patrol staff being removed from some schools.

Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) said air quality was being considered by Inspector Katie Child as a separate issue in the hearings into Calderdale’s draft Local Plan and urged councillors to submit comments.

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said mental health was important and said two Calder Valley organisations had been saved recently but the uncertainty made any sort of coordination difficult.

At Health and Wellbeing Board recently the issue of funding for the Healthy Minds service in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, set up in the wake of serious flooding, due to end, was also raised by Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley).

Liberal Democrats remain concerned for the services’ future.

Coun Swift said accessibility of GPs, or at least the perception of how things were working, needed to be improved and Coun Barnes agreed – much better communication to people was required.