Public health consultants and specialists have skills in the three main areas of public health (health protection, health improvement and health services), but they may specialise in one area such as dentistry or epidemiology. They can come from a wide range of backgrounds but have usually worked in the medical sector.
As a public health consultant or specialist, you'll:
- Deal with and manage complex public health issues
- Plan and deliver public health policies and interventions that influence groups and communities on a local, regional and national level
- Plan and lead the evaluation of public health programmes and policies you’ve delivered
- Provide professional, evidence-based, ethical advice to guide the commissioning of public health services (ensuring they’re high-quality, clinically safe and cost-effective)
- Ensure commissioned public health services will improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities across primary care, secondary care and social careLead on gathering and interpreting information
- Work with a range of organisations
- Be responsible for departmental budgets, manage and supervise staff (such as public health specialty registrars), deliver core training and commission research projects
As a public health specialist or consultant, you’ll usually be employed by the local authorities or the UK Health Security Agency. Although some public health consultants also work within universities, the NHS, Defence Medical Services or in non-profit organisations.
The main route for to become a public health consultant is to apply to the Public Health Specialty training programme. The application process is competive and takes several stages, which is outlined here. If successful, trainees following this programme are referred to as specialty registrars (StRs). Public health training usually lasts five years, full time. Part-time training takes proportionately longer. The five years usually includes one year (full or part-time) on an academic course, and 48 months in specialty training posts.
There are a range of public health consultant roles available, examples include:
Consultants in dental public health lead on improving oral health in their local area. They develop and implement dental policies and strategies and provide expert input on a range of dental public health programmes. They also support the development of dental services in related areas, such as nutrition.
As a consultant in dental public health, you'll:
- Lead, and work with, internal and external teams to ensure oral health improvement programmes have an integrated approach
- Develop and use information and technology to determine the most appropriate and cost-effective public health interventions
- Ensure key dental public health targets and strategic objectives are met
- Support the director of public health on dental issues detailed in the director’s annual report (if you’re in a local authority)
To become a consultant in dental public health, you must be fully registered with the UK’s General Dental Council (GDC), be a GDC accredited specialist in Dental Public Health and have a master’s qualification in Dental Public Health or equivalent.
Consultant epidemiologists lead on the strategy and surveillance of infectious diseases and environmental hazards. They support the development, maintenance and evaluation of epidemiological surveillance systems.
Consultant epidemiologists also lead projects that investigate outbreaks of disease, effective ways to deal with outbreaks and the cost-effectiveness of different interventions. Therefore, they must analyse and evaluate data and research evidence from a wide range of sources to make recommendations and inform decision-making.
As a consultant epidemiologist, you’ll also have other responsibilities which mean you’ll:
- Develop priorities, policies and guidelines for the surveillance, prevention and control of infectious diseases
- Prepare plans for the control of communicable diseases
- Help with outbreak response at a local level by providing field epidemiology support
- Lead the evaluation and quality assurance of epidemiology services
- Regularly review the management of outbreaks and incidents of communicable diseases
- Provide support and advice on health protection issues to other public health staff and organisations, including directors of public health, the government and local authorities
- Promote professional standards in all areas of epidemiology including training, research and auditing