Headlines: April 2nd, 2004

Task groups have been set up to change the role of the NHS from being primarily a sickness service and making it more of a health service. The groups are providing opportunities for all interested parties, including the NHS, local government, non-governmental organisations, schools, employers, industry, the media, central government and individuals themselves, to contribute to a debate on how collectively it is possible to create the opportunities for everyone to enjoy the best health possible. Each group has a membership of 15-20 and brings together a mix of invited stakeholders, covering public and consumer interests, examples of leading edge practice, people representative of the various settings and organisations under consideration, and others with relevant expertise.The task groups, which are led by chairs from public bodies, the voluntary sector and academia, will cover young people, employment, consumers, leisure, communities and the NHS. Among the key issues they will consult on are smoking, combating obesity through encouraging healthy eating and physical activity, combating the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and encouraging employers to provide healthy workplaces.

The national consultation on public health programme also includes local consultation and events led by primary care trusts and local councils, regional consultation led by directors of public health and national activities and events, including an obesity summit, led by the Department of Health, other Government Departments and key stakeholders. The public is also invited to contribute views and ideas directly by post and email: choosing.health.consultation@doh.gsi.gov.

The findings of the task groups and the outcome of the wider consultation will feed into a White Paper to be published in the summer which will aim to set out a coherent and focused programme of action for health improvement.