We need action to tackle the imminent public health workforce shortages

By Nick Raper | 15 December 2021

In the last 18 months, we have seen real challenges in recruitment and retention across the public sector. These have been particularly stark in our local and national public health teams, with the widening health and social care workforce talent gap experienced everywhere.

As a leading national public health recruiter, I’ve seen huge demand for talent in public health and competition is fierce for candidates, particularly for directors of public health (DPH) and deputy roles.

The role of the local DPH has been under intense spotlight and scrutiny of late. It’s never been a more critically important position, and it is now firmly at the top table of councils, embedded in local government and within the wider healthcare system.

Research has found that the knowledge and expertise of the DPH in the population’s health has been vital in addressing the immediate impacts of COVID-19 on health, as well as understanding and helping to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

So, when it comes to recruitment, we’re seeing a blend of opportunities and challenges to appoint the right person at the right time to the right place.

There is a need to attract and retain diverse, talented and qualified individuals in better numbers in public health. This is especially important to ensure the successful delivery of healthcare services and improvement of health outcomes in local communities, and as we address the ongoing pandemic, new variants and pandemic recovery strategies.

Better funding and prioritising urgent action to address the imminent public health workforce shortages should be the first set of measures.

Councils need to be conducive places to work, with enhanced leadership culture, clear development pathways and operating models to attract public health specialists.

Nick Raper is senior consultant specialising in public health appointments at Penna


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