Third Sector Project: Assessing the public health skills of the third sector in London

The London Public Health Network (LPHN) identified the need to build public health capacity and capability within the third sector in London as one of its key aims. The LPHN is the national lead among the Public Health Networks for the third sector. A Third Sector Working Group was formed to promote and support the development of public health skills in the sector. The group consists of representatives from national and regional organisations who engage with and/or have the potential to support the development of public health capacity and capability within the third sector workforce. For a list of current member organisations (PDF 89Kb) of LPHN Third Sector Working Group.

Background to the project

Public sector health employees generally have defined and supported career pathways through their organisation's development infrastructure. This includes skills escalators and NHS electronic portfolios. The required skills and knowledge for specialist or practitioner roles in public health are generally well publicised and increasingly managed through professional regulatory systems such as the Public Health Register or statutory health professional bodies such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council or Health Professions Council.However, many of those working in wider public health roles have little professional guidance or support for the competences they might need or acquire to enable them to effectively fulfil the "public health" part of their work. Indeed it is reasonable to assume, from our discussions with sector leaders and those working directly with third sector employees, that some have no guidance or training in this area at all or those that have accessed training have found it to be inadequate or insufficient for effective practice within their domain. Evidence of "felt" need for health improvement training is lacking. This is particularly so for those working in the third sector.The LHPN's Third Sector Working Group is currently working on an initial project to assess the public health skills of the third sector workforce in London. This was identified by the group as a priority prior to any development of teaching/learning resource to meet identified need in this area. This project has a number of strands:
  • to develop and pilot a web-based tool to self-assess public health skills/knowledge against the national agreed ph competencies as published in the Public Health Skills and Career Framework. This will provide some data on 'felt need', possible skills gaps and workforce development needs for this sector.
  • to complement the above by carrying out a series of focus groups with representatives of the sector who have identified that their work involves public health in some capacity. The focus groups will be asked to consider the ph competencies within the PH Skills and Career Framework and to reflect on their own competencies to deliver the health and well-being agenda - whether they feel they have the requisite skills and knowledge - what they would need to help fill any identified gaps etc.
  • to work with third sector organisations or projects to audit PH skills among front line community workers through survey and focus groups.
This information will form a report on the public health skills of the third sector in London and will likely input to any national skills strategy for this sector. This work has informed further LPHN work with this sector, such as the consultation event on the development of a skills passport in health and well-being (PDF 125Kb). A PDF of the published Skills for Health and London Teaching Public Health Network consultation on a skills passport in health and well-being is available to download hereContact Lorraine Williams, lead, third sector engagement Lorraine.williams@lshtm.ac.uk for further information on this project.