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Written Statement - Launch of Public Health White Paper consultation

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Sets out a series of proposals for legislation to help further improve and protect people’s health and wellbeing in Wales.
Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services
Legislation has a strong history of contributing to improvements in the public’s health. I am today commencing a consultation on our proposals for a Public Health Bill, which seeks to continue this tradition. This builds on the wide-ranging and important debate started by our Public Health Green Paper in late 2012.

I was encouraged that responses to the Green Paper highlighted a clear desire for us to explore further legislative opportunities for improving and protecting health. The responses had two main themes: one favouring an overarching approach which directs organisations to address health considerations across their functions, and the other focused on the pursuit of legislation which takes practical action on specific public health concerns. We have sought to respond to both these aspects in distinct ways.

Firstly, the forthcoming Future Generations Bill [working title] will play an important role by placing good health at the centre of the Wales we want to create for the future. This recognises that much of the work needed to achieve our aspirations for good health and reduce inequalities depends on concerted action across the range of societal factors which affect health and well-being. The Future Generations Bill will provide an overarching legislative framework for public services which supports such a ‘Health in All Policies’ approach. Other Assembly Bills in the legislative programme also make an important contribution by taking action to address specific determinants of health and on discrete matters that support better health.

In this White Paper we concentrate on a series of preventative actions which we could take through a Public Health Bill to address some of the causes of avoidable ill health. These actions all accord with the responsibility of Government to create the conditions in which harm to health can be avoided, and where individuals are able to protect and maximise their own well-being and that of their communities. This focus on preventative action supports the principles of prudent health care by seeking to intervene at points which have most potential for long-term benefits, both for the health and well-being of individuals and in reducing the higher long-term societal and financial burdens caused by preventable ill health.

The White Paper brings together proposals for legislation in a number of related areas. As a suite of actions they aim cumulatively to make a positive difference to health and well-being.  The proposals are presented in three overarching themes, which reflect our commitment to improving health across the life course, developing community assets to create healthy communities, and utilising regulation to underpin certain activities which are important to the public. They are summarised below:

Theme: Improving Health over the Life Course    

Proposals:

  • National tobacco retailers’ register
  • Restricting use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places
  • Smoke-free open spaces and new regulations for internet sales of tobacco
  • Introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol
  • Nutritional standards in specified settings (through secondary legislation and/or guidance)

Theme: Building community assets for health    

Proposals:

  • Strengthening the role of Health Boards in planning local pharmaceutical services
  • Improving access to toilets for public use

Theme: Regulation for Health

Proposals:

  • National Special Procedures Register

The proposals are ambitious and aim at strategic action to improve and protect health. Together, and in combination with the overarching approach being taken through the Future Generations Bill, they seek to place Wales firmly at the forefront of progressive public health policy making.

The consultation will end on 24 June 2014. I will welcome debate and responses from as wide a range of people as possible, and look forward to considering the results in the summer.

I will ensure Members are kept informed of progress in this developing work.