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Understanding the public health practitioner workforce report

14th March 2016

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) has published the report: “Understanding the public health practitioner workforce”.

This report was jointly commissioned by the Department of Health (DH), Health Education England (HEE) and Public Health England (PHE) to gather information on the public health practitioner workforce in England. The study is to inform and support stakeholder decisions relating to the future of the public health practitioner workforce and their impact on population health and wellbeing.

The report includes a summary of the regulatory bodies responsible for members of this workforce, a proposed definition of a ‘public health practitioner’ for use in future discussions and workforce planning, and examples of the roles filled by public health practitioners.

Through a mixture of stakeholder interviews and desk research, this CfWI study has found:

  • Practitioners may come from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a mixture of qualifications. Some may belong to registered professions, but many do not.
  • As a result, there is a broad range of job titles and definitions in use to describe the role of a public health practitioner, with no consistency across or even within sectors.
  • There are also multiple routes for becoming a practitioner and for developing a career as a practitioner; some undergo further training to become a public health specialist but for most there is no linear career progression.
  • Due to the diverse nature of the workforce, data on workforce numbers for public health practitioners is sparse. Counting the practitioner workforce at a local and national level would help employers and policymakers to make decisions on service planning.
  • Practitioner registration schemes have mixed backing from stakeholders.
  • Better understanding of the practitioner workforce will help the system to manage the financial and demand pressures that are being identified in other CfWI public health studies.