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Director of Public Health

What is a Director of Public Health?

Directors of public health are accountable for delivering public health objectives in their area, as well as reporting annually on outcomes and future initiatives. The role is incredibly varied, challenging and rewarding.

To become a director of public health, you must be a qualified specialist in public health, and be registered with either the General Medical Council, General Dental Council or the UK Public Health Register.

Where do Directors of Public Health Work?

In the UK, Directors of Public Health work in local authorities, organisations such as Public Health England or Health Boards (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

All Directors of Public Health in the UK are overseen and supported by the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH).

What do Directors of Public Health do for Local Authorities?

Legally, every local authority must appoint a director of public health. The director works across all three main areas of public health (health protection, health improvement and healthcare services).

Using the best available evidence, public health directors determine the overall vision, strategy and aims for public health in their local area. They then manage the delivery of and report back on, those objectives. The role can also involve:

- Commissioning and organising the delivery of health services that are both clinically and cost-effective
- Leading and providing expert advice to the local authority and organisations that work with them
- Establishing strong working relationships with other local agencies to ensure public health priorities are delivered
- Ensuring public health is a priority for local authorities
- Managing senior staff, including recruitment, personal development, appraisals and handling any disciplinary or grievance issues
- Contributing to training and development programmes
- Managing the local authority’s public health budget

What does a Centre Director do?

Centre directors work within organisations, such as Public Health England or the UK Health Security Agency. They lead and oversee health protection services in a particular region or centre for public health. A large part of their role is to develop regional strategies and plans to help protect public health.

They also oversee the systems for:
- Monitoring of local diseases, such as case statistics and distribution
- Laboratory services, such as microbiological investigation of diseases
- Investigation and management of incidents, for example, a chemical spill or an outbreak of disease

Centre directors work closely with directors of public health within their region.