Nursing Opinion

Why public health is important to practice

Deborah Sturdy, Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care

Deborah Sturdy OBE, Chief Nurse, Adult Social Care

Jamie Waterall, Deputy Chief Nurse, Public Health England

The pandemic has brought huge challenges for everyone across social care, while also forging stronger working relationships with colleagues from other services as we have joined together in our response.

It has also brought to the fore the skills and expertise of nurses and the wider workforce to manage the pandemic and expand core skills in improving resident outcomes. Advanced clinical decision making, team management, multi-agency care coordination, complex assessment and care planning, leadership – which has been crucial in staff wellbeing and support – name but a few of the core and essential skills of the social care nurse. Additionally, we have seen our peers also develop new found skills in embracing principles of the public health nursing. This includes disease outbreak management, enhanced infection prevention and control, supporting a vaccination programme, analytical skills applied to data being collated and interpreted translating into local action plans with multi-agency input. This has been adopted across the social care landscape in the main without a second thought of what is being done, the significant contribution this is making to public health management and response and the skills being both developed and applied.

Jamie Waterall, Deputy Chief Nurse, Public Health England

As we start to take stock of what has been achieved, we must both acknowledge the phenomenal work which has taken place, but also not lose these new found skills which can so valuably be applied to other aspects of public health nursing. The publication of the ‘All Our Health’ educational platform sets out the public health agenda which has both implications for staff and residents in Social Care and opportunity to continue to apply the skills we have learned. These include health improvement, health protection, supporting health wellbeing and independence.

All health and care professionals share a common commitment to do their best for the public we serve. And increasingly, practising effective prevention, promotion and protection is recognised as a vital part of this, which is helping more people live longer, healthier lives. We have a shared responsibility for prevention and all health and care professionals have a role to play. Preventing ill-health and promoting wellbeing isn’t something that is confined to specialist public health professionals. In fact, all professionals can offer brief advice in the knowledge that, in most cases, the public expect and trust this advice.

Time is often limited in most contexts. So, it’s important that all professionals have easy access to the information and evidence they need to make the most difference, particularly when it comes to dealing with the most pressing challenges facing public health. That’s why Public Health England has developed the ‘All Our Health’ framework, which helps professionals embed prevention within their work by providing trusted advice and guidance on over 26 different public health topics such as:

  • mental health and wellbeing
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • falls and fractures
  • air pollution

Developed by public health experts, it supports prevention priorities across our health and care system. Each session introduces a different topic, setting out why it is a public health priority and what professionals can do to address it, with a short knowledge test to enhance learning and signpost to further information. The sessions are designed to be used flexibly, making it easier for people to get advice that will help them make a difference to their practice alongside the busy demands of their day-to-day roles.

This information is relevant to people working across the health and care sector, from frontline practitioners to managers and strategic leaders. Completing the sessions can also count towards continuing professional development. Imagine the potential of more than 2 million health and care professionals committing to focus more on our top public health issues of today. As we start to focus on the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, social care must appraise the lessons learnt and consider the changes needed to ensure that we truly build back better and fairer. It will be essential that we use the 2020s as a decade of transformation, which allows our nursing profession to challenge the way that we work. We need to pay the same attention to preventing, protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of the public as we do to treating ill health and disease. In this way, we will be able to adapt the nursing model so it enables the workforce to address key public health issues which have been amplified by the pandemic. Social Care Nurses have an important part to play in ensuring we support the delivery of good public health and the pandemic has proven their credentials.






Edel Harris





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