Duncan Selbie’s Friday message – 3 August 2018

Dear everyone

Planning for winter may seem premature amidst this hot summer, but it is never too early to start preparations. Recent figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that Cornwall has reduced fuel poverty by over 5,000 homes in a single year. Cornwall has an ambition to remove a further 22,000 homes from fuel poverty by 2030 and their Winter Wellbeing Partnership helps residents who need it most to have central heating installed where it has not existed before and improve insulation. The partnership, made up of over 30 organisations, has helped over 7,700 homes, prevented 881 hospital admissions, and supported 348 individuals to stay in work or progress to work. This is public health in action. You can learn more on this in the Cold Homes Toolkit.

Stopping smoking is one of the best things a woman and her partner can do to protect the health of their baby through pregnancy and beyond, but the number of women recorded as smokers when they give birth has plateaued at around 11%. This though does not speak to the variation which ranges from 1.6% in the London Borough of Westminster to 26% in Blackpool. Following a successful pilot, we have published a new clinical resource for midwives to help them communicate the harms caused by smoking. We have also launched our Breastfeeding Friend support service on Google Assistant. A first for the public sector, this voice-activated service – available for free via smartphones – provides 24/7 access to NHS-approved breastfeeding advice, complementing the support offered by health professionals. Learn more on this here.

We are now approaching the PHE annual conference, taking place at Warwick University on 11 and 12 September, where we will bring together 1500 health professionals, policy makers and politicians. This year there are three themes: reducing inequalities; making the economic case for prevention; and using world leading science and innovation to protect and improve the health of the people. This is a seminal moment for the public’s health with our new Secretary of State making prevention one of his three highest priorities, the opportunities of the forthcoming Ten Year Plan for the NHS and the social care Green Paper. We need to prioritise prevention to ensure a sustainable NHS, using our hospitals less often and later in life. We can do this through helping people spend more years in good health and stay in their own homes for longer when unwell, and extending healthy working life as people retire later.

Our speakers include Professor Dame Theresa Marteau on our attitudes about changing behaviour and Jonny Wilkinson, who will discuss mental health and physical activity. We will hear from Steve Brine MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care and Tracey Crouch MP, Parliamentary under Secretary for Sport and Civil Society. We will also receive our first update to the Health Profile for England, which tells a unique story about the health of our nation. Get more information here.

And finally, I shall be away for a summer break with my family and hope that many of you too will be enjoying a holiday. My next message will be on Friday 31 August.

Best wishes

Duncan

Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK