The Centre for Workforce Intelligence was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) in partnership with Health Education England and the Department of Health to build a clearer understanding of the location, number, functions, skills and competences of the public health knowledge and intelligence workforce.

The report found the following:

  • The CfWI estimates that there are between 1,070 and 1,370 people working in PHE and local authorities in knowledge and intelligence roles, based on indicative data we obtained from PHE and a data gathering exercise of local authority directors of public health using a survey tool to ascertain staffing numbers and models of delivery within local authorities
  • Their analysis of skills found that public health knowledge and intelligence staff need to have good qualitative and quantitative skills; communication skills, and a solid understanding of how best to respond to the needs of the community and officials they serve.
  • It was found that their role is essential to efficient public health delivery, accentuated by an increased need for evidence-based policy around health messages being conveyed outside of the traditional NHS environments. Hence, this workforce has the potential for local teams in particular to support local authorities in improving public health locally and to influence decision-making more directly.
  • However, there is some uncertainty surrounding the future of public health knowledge and intelligence – specifically within local authorities, as teams are reorganised and financial constraints are in place.
  • Particular concerns are around career progression and workforce mobility – including opportunities to develop, and transfer between PHE, local authorities and the NHS as part of career progression.

Recognising that some actions are already underway to improve understanding of this workforce, the report is suggesting the following actions:

  • Offering clearer guidance to local authorities on the appropriate skills and professions they need in their public health knowledge and intelligence teams
  • The establishment of a professional network for this workforce which encompasses all employers
  • Creating initiatives to increase workforce mobility between local authorities, PHE and the NHS
  • Finding a resolution on some issues around access to NHS data by local authorities.

The report (which can be downloaded here) is intended to support the implementation of the government’s public health workforce strategy, which will be delivered jointly by the government, local government and PHE.