In recognition of the importance of the formal transfer of the public health function and, by extension, public health intelligence teams, from the NHS to local government from 1st April 2013, members of the LARIA Council held an informal meeting with Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer at Public Health England, at the 2013 LARIA Conference.

At this meeting it was clear it would be mutually beneficial to strengthen the working relationships between public health intelligence and the wider local authority research and intelligence community, and between local authorities and Public Health England. Effective collaboration and shared learning between intelligence professionals at the local, regional and national level would provide an increasingly important means of sharing learning and creating synergy in our current financial climate.

A small Working Group of LARIA and PHE members was consequently set up to explore and facilitate this work on behalf of Professor Newton and LARIA Council.

During the last year this Working Group has collaborated with a number of partners in order to address and explore a number of crucial key areas to take the LARIA-PHE agenda forward. Its aim was to gain a better understanding of the current scope of public health intelligence, both in Public Health England and within local authorities, to identify emerging opportunities for developing closer relationships, networking and communities of practice, and to explore the potential for shared training and/or other professional development.
Although the Public Health England and LARIA regional organisation does not work on the same boundaries, the Working Group found that Public Health England and LARIA both have contacts at a sub-national level in England (with LARIA also comprising Scotland and Wales). In addition, a considerable amount of joint working already exists between health intelligence professionals, and provides evidence of much commonality between practitioners, particularly around consultation and engagement. A clear appetite for collaboration also exists, particularly around further joint working/networking/training and the sharing of knowledge. LARIA-PHE Collaboration – Activity summary

A number of ‘quick wins’ (such as sharing information through online communities and regional newsletters and updates) have been identified along with a range of other areas in which collaboration could be fostered, including joint training, and work shadowing and exchanges to increase understanding, particularly of specialist skills etc. Based on the findings of our initial activities, a number of potential priority areas going forward were identified. A quick ‘dot vote’ on these identified priorities was undertaken at the recent LARIA Conference in May to offer a quick ‘finger in the air’ test of prevailing LARIA/PHE practitioner attitudes. Each person was given 5 dots to spend on the priorities listed as they so wished. Better opportunities for joint training received the highest number (47) of dot votes. LARIA 2014 Dot vote – Full Document.

Some issues or barriers requiring further thought and/or ‘workarounds’ have also been acknowledged by the Working Group, such as differences in both boundaries and the everyday use of technologies, and a mutual lack of awareness and overall understanding of ‘how it all works now’ as a result of the ‘quiet revolution’ in public health.

Helen Butcher, June 2014
LARIA/PHE Working Group Chair
LARIA Council/South East Chair