The value of public health – Public Health Collaboration in Cheshire and Merseyside

The Champs Public Health Collaborative is a formal partnership of public health teams in Cheshire and Merseyside, which is made up of nine local authorities. It was established in 2003 and is led jointly by the subregion’s Directors of Public Health (DsPH).

The DsPH make up an Executive Board and act as a public health system, working closely with key partners including NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the UK Health Security Agency and NHS England and NHS Improvement. This work is facilitated by the Champs Support Team, a small team hosted by Wirral Council.

By working together on priority areas, the Collaborative pools resources, shares expertise, communicates with one voice, and enables a consistent approach across a large geography. Below is an example of the day-to-day activities that DsPH support and the impact this makes on local communities.

Public Health Collaboration in Cheshire and Merseyside

The issue

The national health and care model does not allow for easy collaboration and connectivity between public health teams across a regional or subregional geography. Teams often work in silos depending on their local authority boundaries or rely on the UK Health Security Agency or Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to act as a bridge.

The solution

The Champs Public Health Collaborative, which has been operating for nearly 20 years, brings together the nine public health teams in Cheshire and Merseyside to work together on as many public health priorities as possible for the greater good of the subregion’s 2.8 million residents.
The Collaborative receives income from each local authority to carry out this work and produces bids to external partners – ranging from NHS England, Health Education England and DHSC – for further funding. In the past three years, the Collaborative has generated over £10.5 million of external income from these bids that would otherwise have not entered the subregion’s health and care system.

The results

The Collaborative’s many programmes of work have celebrated significant achievements, including:

  • Campaigns that have changed behaviour (eg. Spread the Facts, which through independent insight was found to have promoted positive COVID-19 behaviours among younger people) and improved mental wellbeing (eg. Kind to Your Mind, which during COVID-19 helped over 2,300 people find information about crisis helplines and resulted in 230 people complete intensive online therapy, provided free of charge)
  • Reduction in suicide rates since 2015, bucking the national trend from 2018 to 2020
  • A team of bowel and breast screening coordinators engaging with over 2,500 residents to encourage more screening appointments
  • Data dashboards that collect data from all nine local authority areas and aids health and care service decision making and response to health issues
  • A centralised COVID-19 response Hub resulting in a further £3.3 million investment for health protection from the Department of Health and Social Care
  • A ‘one team’ approach to tacking health inequalities, aided by Sir Michael Marmot and his team at the Institute of Health Equity

Lessons learned

The Collaborative is continually going from strength to strength, thanks to a passionate group of Directors of Public Health, their hardworking teams and a dedicated resource – the Champs Support Team – working hard to support the system. For the upcoming year, the Collaborative will be doubling down in its effort to pull back from ‘pandemic response’ mode and settle in to ‘business as usual’, with an emphasis on radical prioritisation and workforce wellbeing.