The Department of Health has set out the tasks local authorities need to address to meet their new obligations on health intelligence in the reorganised NHS.

It says local authorities’ new public health functions mean they must have access to relevant health and social care data, employ or buy in specialist health intelligence skills, and make sure they are meeting information governance obligations.

The DH says local authorities “will need to use the best available health intelligence” to meet their new statutory duty to improve the health of their populations and to provide public health advice to clinical commissioning groups.

It says this work could be delivered in-house or commissioned in whole or part from other bodies, including collaborative ventrues with other local authorities.

The department has published a series of factsheets on the new arrangements, which set out the steps it believes must be taken.

It says local authorities will first need to understand local requirements for health intelligence and then agree a resource and business model for supplying the service; developing memoranda of understanding with CCGs.

It adds that access to NHS data for local authority staff will be an essential part of the service provided to CCGs buy says funding for information and intelligence to support secondary care commissioning is not included in public health budgets transferring to local authorities.

It says data for local authorities is likely to come from commissioning support groups but that “any costs incurred by the commissioning support groups in providing it need to be covered by the clinical commissioning groups, not the local authorities.”

The DH has also told local authorities that while a number of specialist intelligence staff will transfer to local authorities from the NHS local authorities will need to consider whether they have enough expertise.

It says health intelligence capability is “highly variable” around the country, health intelligence expertise is highly sought after and that it is ly all existing council teams would be able to fully absorb the new public health responsibilities.

The factsheets also say that although at least 40 local authorities have already arranged access to the N3 network it is “imperative” that the remainder of local authorities address the issue of access to N3 as soon as possible.

It adds that they will also need access to NHSmail for local authority staff involved in public health commissioning.

The DH adds: "Limited access to essential data because of the lack of appropriate IT architecture (N3 connectivity in particular) has been identified as a formal risk by the Public Health England Programme Board.”

The DH says the Public Health England transition team is also developing a list of examples in which directors of public health may need access to confidential data and developing a national checklist for information governance arrangements.

Local authorities’ new public health functions begin in April 2013.