Public health

Public health looks to improve the health of the population and tackle inequalities.

Mental wellbeing is feeling positive, satisfied, realising your abilities, being productive, able to cope with daily stresses and survive difficult situations.

Wellbeing is important for health as it can add years to our lives. It is estimated that up to 40% of our wellbeing can be enhanced by getting involved in activities which are: meaningful and engaging: and build confidence and self-esteem. A set of five simple actions have been developed to help people identify such activities.

1. Connect with the people around you. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
2. Be Active Being active makes you feel good.  Discover an activity you enjoy and one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
3. Take Notice Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling.  Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
4. Keep Learning Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving.  Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
5. Give Seeing yourself and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.  

Every Mind Matters

Did you know that one in four people in the UK experienced mental health issues in the last year? This means that most people in England know someone with mental health problems or have personally experienced them.
But we don’t need to wait until we are struggling with our mental health; there are lots of things we can do to protect ourselves and prevent problems escalating, just as we do with our physical health.
The new Public Health England ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign encourages adults to be more aware of their mental health and helps them to discover simple steps to look after their mental health and wellbeing.
‘Every Mind Matters’ offers a range of useful resources that help spot the signs of common mental health concerns, offers practical self-care tips and guidance and, importantly, explains when to seek further support.
There is also a free NHS-approved online tool (below), which helps people build an action plan to deal with stress and anxiety, boost their mood, improve their sleep and help them feel more in control.
To learn more about how to look after your mental health visit: 

There are simple actions that, if practised regularly, can improve our mental wellbeing. Learn about some of these steps on the NHS website.

Here are some tips to help:
  • Keep active for 30 minutes, five times a week.
  • Eat healthily by consuming five fruit and vegetable portions a day, cutting down on fatty/salty/sugary food and eating less starchy carbohydrates such as bread and potatoes.
  • Only drink alcohol on a maximum of two to three days a week, having no more than two to three units a day if you are female, and three to four units a day if you are male. See your GP if you are having problems with alcohol.
  • Stop smoking with help from your GP, who can refer you to a service for support and advice.
  • The ‘Bait’ project is designed to engage people in South East Northumberland in the arts, which you can find out more about here
Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that affect the brain. The most common is Alzheimer's but diseases also include vascular dementiadementia with Lewy bodies and Pick's disease. Here are some useful links to websites:
  • The national campaign Dementia Friends aims to lessen stigmas to create a more dementia-friendly society.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society offers help, information and support if you are worried about or affected by dementia.
  • Carers Northumberland is a charity offering support for carers to access help for the person they care for. 
Below are links to organisations that can help you if you're struggling and links to training around suicide prevention.

Zero Suicide Alliance (Training)
The Samaritans (Support and information)

North East & North Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network
The Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy (JHWS) 2018 – 2028 is our aspirational plan which sets out how we will work together to maximise the wellbeing and health of Northumberland residents and reduce inequalities over the next ten years.

This is a document which has been produced jointly by Northumberland County Council and NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which ultimately sits with the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board as one of our key responsibilities.

You can read the full Joint Health & Wellbeing Strategy 2018 - 2028 here.

A free check with your GP helps to identify potential risks early.

Everyone is at some risk of developing certain health conditions, and a NHS health check aims to help you lower your risk of developing these common but often preventable diseases.

You will be invited for a free NHS health check with your GP once every five years if you are between 40 and 74 years old, and have not already been diagnosed with vascular diseases (including heart disease, previous stroke, chronic renal disease or diabetes) or have certain risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol treated by medication.

  • The check will take around 20 to 30 minutes.
  • You will be asked about your family history, smoking and alcohol.
  • Your height, weight, sex, ethnicity and age will be recorded.
  • Your blood pressure will be taken.
  • A simple blood test will check your cholesterol level.
  • Your body mass index (BMI) will be calculated. BMI is a measure of whether you're a healthy weight for your height.

Following the check, you will receive free personalised advice about what you can do to stay healthy. If the health check highlights any potential problems you will be offered advice and support to help you address them.

The goal of public health in Northumberland is to improve and protect our residents' health and wellbeing, and improve the health of the poorest quickly.

Public health is about helping people to stay healthy and avoid getting ill, as well as reducing health inequalities to help people live longer, healthier lives.

Click here to see the Public Health Strategic Plan on a Page

Click here to see the 2015 Director of Public Health’s Annual Report
Click here to see the 2016 Director of Public Health's Annual Report
Click here to see the 2017 Director of Public Health's Annual Report
Click here to see the 2018 Director of Public Health's Annual Report
Click here to see the 2019 Director of Public Health's Annual Report

Click here to see the Northumberland Suicide Prevention Strategy 2017 - 2022

Director of Public Health Annual Report 2020

During this, the fourth and largest wave of COVID-19 cases in Northumberland, the effects of Covid on health inequalities are highlighted in the 2020 Director of Public Health Annual Report.    

Each year Directors of Public Health are statutorily required to produce an annual independent report on the health of their population and recommend actions to improve health and reduce inequalities.

This year the Annual Report has been created in a video format instead of a printed document. You can view it here:

Click here to watch the playlist

The public health team at Northumberland County Council is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the residents of Northumberland and reducing the inequalities in health that exist within and between communities.

The public health team in Northumberland work to raise awareness to support healthy lifestyles.

The key aims of public health are:
  • to increase healthy life expectancy in our residents through focusing on health quality as well as the length of life
  • to increase equity in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between communities through achieving bigger improvements in our more disadvantaged communities
Public health commissions a range health and wellbeing services covering a range of policy areas including:
  • tobacco control
  • healthy eating
  • physical activity
  • alcohol harm prevention
  • integrated community sexual health services
  • long acting reversible contraception in primary care
  • mental wellbeing
  • NHS health check assessment
  • Healthy Child Programme 0-19 years
  • specialist drug and alcohol services
A full list of the functions and responsibilities can be found here.

Public health also works to achieve the following:
  • Health protection: The team’s projects include assurance around immunisations and screening, sexual health and contraception, children’s public health and health emergency planning. 
  • Population health: specialist research and intelligence, which includes health needs assessments (HNA), joint strategic needs assessment, health impact assessment (HIA), service reviews, healthcare public health advice and evidence-based briefings.
  • Wider determinants: working to address the social determinants of health which impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, and are they key cause of health inequalities.

Public health works closely with national organisations such as NHS England and UK Health Security Agency (Formally known as Public Health England).

A New Way of Working

The Being Well  Café – A Community Conversation
People living in and around Berwick were invited to come to the Swan Centre in August 2015 to participate in a community conversation about being well. The event was called The Being Well Café and its aim was to:

  • meet people from the area
  • find out what is important to local people
  • identify community strengths and assets
  • help people connect to support and resources. 
The Public Health Team plan to invite residents from other localities in the county to similar events in the future.  Please click here to read the report from the Cafe.
Health isn’t just affected by lifestyle choices but by a range of other factors including working conditions, housing, employment, education and access to quality healthcare services.
Below are a number of topic-based briefings which help make the link to public health:
Pharmacies play an important role in reducing health inequalities through delivering high-quality health and wellbeing services. The Healthy Living Pharmacy initiative encourages pharmacies to promote health and wellbeing messages and engage with their local community.

Healthy Living Pharmacies are required to have a minimum of one healthy living champion trained in Royal Society of Public Health level two: Understanding Health Improvement. As well as this, pharmacies must have an individual in a leadership/management position who is willing to undertake training to support the development of the pharmacy.

If your pharmacy wishes to become a Healthy Living Pharmacy, please contact David Turnbull on 01670 625527 or email for training.
The council is committed to improving the health of its workforce as they understand that happier, healthier employees are at the heart of our future plans. Public health commissions the Better Health at Work Award and is also supporting Northumberland County Council (NCC) to progress its own work on this scheme from the Gold Award to Continuing Excellence. The main targets for the organisation are:
  • to continue to deliver health campaigns based around physical activity, cancer awareness, alcohol, working wisely and mental health and wellbeing
  • to provide a mentoring role to businesses on lower levels of the awards. NCC has chosen to mentor Healthy Living Pharmacies at the bronze level of the award.
  • to maintain the strong network of health advocates NCC has built up since initiation of the Healthier Together workplace strategy
  • to ensure health topics are promoted in the wider community and families of the workforce
A pharmaceutical needs assessment (PNA) describes the health needs of the population, current pharmaceutical services provision and any gaps in that provision. It also identifies potential new services to meet health needs and help achieve the objectives of the strategic plan, while taking account of financial constraints.

The Northumberland Health and Wellbeing Board is required to publish a pharmaceutical needs assessment (PNA) for the county. View the most recent version here.

Supplementary Statements

Supplementary Statement 1
Supplementary Statement 2
Supplementary Statement 3
Supplementary Statement 4 
Supplementary Statement 5
Supplementary Statement 6
Supplementary Statement 7
Supplementary Statement 8

All Local Authorities have a duty to improve the health of the population they serve. To help with this, we use data and information from a range of sources including hospitals to understand more about the nature and causes of disease and ill-health in the area.

What are ticks?

Ticks are small spider-like creatures that feed on the blood of animals, including people. Depending on its development stage, the size of a tick varies. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed, while adult ticks look more like tiny spiders.

Where do you find ticks?

Ticks can survive in many places but prefer areas with dense vegetation or long grass. They are usually found in woodlands, grassland, moorland, some urban parks and gardens. You can be exposed to ticks whenever you spend time outdoors, including in your garden or the local park.

How to minimise risk of being bitten

- You can prevent tick bites by walking on clearly defined paths

- Use an  insect repellent 

- Cover your skin while walking outdoors. Tuck your trousers into your socks and wear long sleeved tops. 

- Wear light coloured clothing so ticks can be spotted and brushed off 

- Check your clothes and your body regularly for ticks when you’re outdoors and again when you get home. You may not notice you’ve been bitten, so make sure you thoroughly check yourself, your children and your pets 

If you have been bitten, remove ticks as soon as possible, the safest way is to use a

pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool.  Some tick bites can result in infection so it is important to remove safely and as quickly as possible.  

Main health risks 

Ticks can transmit bacteria that cause diseases such as Lyme disease, which can lead to very serious conditions if left untreated. Contact your GP or dial 111 promptly if you begin to feel unwell with flu like symptoms or develop a spreading circular red rash. Remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or have recently spent time outdoors.

Further information can be found here
A wide range of information and support is available through working within communities and across agencies.

It is the aim of Northumberland County Council that all children grow up in safe, healthy environments with secure relationships which are positive.
The Start 4 Life website has useful information such as:
  • tips and advice for mums-to-be on having a healthy pregnancy
  • feeding and activity tips to get your baby off to the best start
  • tips and ideas for dads-to-be to help their partners
  • easy tips and ideas for friends and family members for helping mums-to-be
Throughout Northumberland there are a number of Sure Start children’s centres to ensure that all children get the best possible start in life. At the centres, families with children under five can access support and information about health services, volunteering groups, education and community groups.
Breastfeeding is extremely important to Northumberland County Council which is why we are Breastfeeding Friendly.  We acknowledge the evidence that breastfeeding benefits  both mother and child in both protecting their health and promoting the best start in life. Our ambition is to make our public environments and attitudes of staff as supportive as possible and aim to significantly increase our breastfeeding rates.
We work in partnership with our health providers and endorse the UNICEF Breastfeeding Friendly accreditation across the Trust and into our communities.  NCC employees have a bespoke training programme to support mothers to breastfeed in all of our public venues and the apprentices have designed posters and counter top displays to spread the word.
Please click here for the Breastfeeding Policy for visitors or members of the public.
  • Healthy Start is a government scheme designed to help pregnant women and children under four, in low-income families, eat healthily. Weekly vouchers to spend on milk, fruit, vegetables or infant formula are provided. It also gives useful information on healthy eating and general health. 

Specialised young person-friendly health services are available in Northumberland. The statutory youth service works with partnership agencies in health and the council to support young people with additional needs, providing a wide range of opportunities that will be useful both now and in the future.

Please click here for Public Health updates for schools during the COVID-19 outbreak.

To find out more about the changes happening to children during puberty and adolescence, visit the World Health Organization's webpages on both neurodevelopment and physical development.
A healthy weight usually means being within a set range that compares your weight to your height. It is calculated using a body mass index (BMI) score in adults and a BMI centile in children.

Obesity and being overweight usually occurs as a result of eating and drinking more calories over time than you burn off through physical activity. If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop serious health conditions such as type two diabetes, heart disease, strokes and some cancers.
Moving a little more and eating a little better can help a lot. Small changes are easier to maintain, but can make a big difference.
  • Cut back on fatty and sugary foods.
  • Reduce portion sizes.
  • Eat regularly at set times throughout the day - including breakfast.
  • Swap unhealthy snacks for fruit or vegetables.
  • Reward children with your time or an outdoor activity rather than with food.
  • Visit the Change 4 Life website for advice on healthy eating on a budget.    
  • Be more active in daily life - walk or cycle short journeys, especially to school or work. It will save you money too! Visit the Go Smarter Northumberland site for more information.
  • It's not just about being active but also reducing the time you spend sitting still. Set yourself a TV time limit at home, and at your desk try to stand up and walk around every hour.
  • There are many walks around Northumberland. Read more on Shepherds Walks and Visit Northumberland.
  • If cycling is more your thing, you can find more information here.
  • Northumberland Sport have information on what's happening in Northumberland to help you stay healthy and an acitvity finder to search for your nearest place to get active.
The public health service commissions exercise on referral schemes, which work with local GP surgeries to encourage individuals with health concerns to become more active.

A person is referred to a leisure centre by their GP, where they attend an appointment with a member of the fitness team to assess their needs and abilities. They then attend activities, which can include fitness classes, swimming or gym sessions. Health trainers offer a free service to anyone living in Northumberland who is over 16. Your GP, district nurse, or other health practitioner can refer you to a health trainer or you can get in touch with us directly. Get Active Northumberland (GAN) is a free programme supporting those concerned about their weight. It offers activities, advice and programmes for parents, children and teenagers. Northumberland’s Roots and Shoots schools programme gives the opportunity for children to learn how to plant and grow fresh food. It involves advice to support school gardening clubs, as well as health education and physical activity programmes. The role of Northumberland Sport is to increase participation in sport and physical activity. They provide information on their website about sporting and physical activities around the county.
Sexual health and wellbeing affects most people’s lives at some point. It is crucial that people are supported to make the right choices.

Across the UK there has been an increase in the number of people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Some young people are particularly affected, so programmes are supported through education, health services and work with parents and community youth teams.

Find out about local sexual health services on the NHS Website
Chlamydia is the most common STI but, because it does not cause any noticeable symptoms, most people do not know they are infected. Chlamydia can be treated by a dose of antibiotics but if untreated it could lead to serious long-term health consequences, including infertility.

Using condoms helps prevent the spread of STIs and unwanted pregnancy. They are available free for those under 25 from contraceptive services, GUM clinics, pharmacies and some youth projects, where the ‘C-Card’ sign is displayed.

The teenage pregnancy rate in Northumberland is at its lowest level since 1998 and it is our aim to ensure all pregnancies are planned and supported as a choice. Your local clinic can advise on family planning options and help you choose the right contraception.

Emergency contraception and advice is also available free of charge from most pharmacies across the country.
Psychosexual counselling is a specialised therapeutic technique carried out by professionals. It aims to help people living with difficulties that are of a psychological, sexual nature and that are too difficult or complex to be resolved on their own. If you are having problems, please contact your GP who may refer you to the specialist service in Northumberland.
If you have been diagnosed with HIV, or you are close to someone living with HIV, help is available from organisations who understand the social and emotional issues that often go along with this condition.

Talk to someone in confidence at your local GUM (genito-urinary medicine) clinic about HIV tests. You can have a test without having to identify yourself, and counselling is available if you need it.
More than 80% of people in Northumberland are non-smokers, yet smoking is still our main cause of preventable illness and death. It is a leading cause of health inequalities and is responsible for much of the difference in life expectancy between the rich and poor.

Call the Northumberland Stop Smoking Service on 01670 813135 for a friendly, experienced team of advisers and specialists.

They will give you advice, support and encouragement to stop smoking for good. With expert help from the stop smoking service you are four times more likely to succeed than those who try to quit without support.

Everyone is different, so there are many support options available including:
  • motivational tips on how to stay on track
  • the chance to use a carbon monoxide monitor, to see your recovery in action
  • a choice of support to fit your lifestyle
  • stop smoking medicines to help beat cravings, from nicotine patches and gum, to nasal sprays, inhalators and tablets
Sessions are already established in Northumberland and are held in community venues, GP practices and pharmacies.

Stoptober is an annual campaign which promotes stopping smoking for 28 days. This means you will be five times more likely to stop for good.
As well as helping smokers who want to quit, we also aim to tackle the death, disability and disease caused by smoking and to make smoking less desirable, less accessible and less affordable.

Locally this means preventing the uptake of smoking, helping those who want to quit and protecting people from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Public health works with many departments and agencies to plan and deliver a broad range of activities. More information and support can be found on the Stop Smoking NHS pages and Smokefree website.

The council also supports the work of Fresh: a programme set up in the North East to tackle the worst rates of smoking-related illness and death in England. Their aim is to give millions of people in the North East information, motivation and confidence to stop smoking, or not to start in the first place.
Flu is a nasty illness which can spread easily. Find out more about flu jabs here.

If you are pregnant, aged over 65 years, have a long-term health condition (both adults and children), or you are a carer or healthcare professional, please get your flu vaccination now.

You are especially at risk of flu if you are a pregnant woman or have a weakened immune system such as a neurological disorder, liver, lung or renal disease, heart problem or diabetes.

The flu vaccination is being offered as a nasal spray for two and three-year-olds, as young children’s close contact with each other means that they are more likely to transmit the virus to groups including the elderly.

Almost 800 people in England were admitted to intensive care with complications of flu last year. Each winter, hundreds of thousands of people see their GP and tens of thousands are hospitalised because of flu.

Don’t put it off. It’s important that you contact your GP surgery as soon as you can.
If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol or drugs, there's a wide range of help available.

Northumberland County Council is committed to supporting responsible drinking, but recognises there are problems associated with overconsumption of alcohol. This can result in risks to health, relationships and community safety. 

To enjoy lower-risk drinking it is important to know the number of units in a drink depends on the amount you drink and the strength. The Department of Health's lower risk guidelines are:

  • Adults should not exceed two to three units per day.
  • Avoid 'saving up' the weekly units to drink in one day, but spread them over at least three days.
  • Aim for several alcohol-free days each week.
  • No level of alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy.
  • Children shouldn’t drink alcohol.
Examples of unit amounts for adults:
  • one pint of 4% strength beer = 2.3 units
  • one 25ml measure of spirits  = 1 unit
  • one medium 175ml glass of wine (13% abv) = 2.3 units
  • one 330ml alcopop (5% abv)  = 1.5 units
For more unit information and examples, head to the NHS Livewell pages.
If you are caring for someone who uses drugs and alcohol and need support, visit Adfam or Escape Family Support.
If you think you may have a problem with drugs, there's a wide range of services that can help. Some are provided by the NHS, and some are specialist drug facilities run by charities and private organisations. If you are caring for someone who uses drugs and alcohol and you need support, visit Adfam or Escape Family Support.
The North East has among the highest rates of gambling in England, and also the highest rate of problematic gambling.

When gambling becomes a problem, it can create a huge range of other issues, including debt and bankruptcy, increased use of drugs and alcohol, conflict with family and friends, and mental health problems such as depression and stress.

If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, there is a wide range of help available.
There are a range of national and local services available to offer help and advice if you are experiencing a problem with gambling.
NECA offer free support to gamblers, as well as friends and family who are affected. They can provide short and longer term treatment options either over the phone or face-to-face, across the North East and North Yorkshire. You can call them, confidentially, on 0191 562 3309.

There is more information and links to other services on their website

Citizen’s Advice provide advice and information on their website including debt advice, what to do if you are worried about your partner’s gambling and how you can prevent access to gambling by using the ‘self-exclusion’ scheme.

Citizen’s Advice also provides a gambling support service across the North East. See their website for more information or you can call for confidential advice on 0808 278 7902, or email
The NHS Northern Gambling Service (also known as the Northern Gambling Clinic) provides specialist therapy and recovery to people affected by gambling addiction, as well as those with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal feelings. They also provide help to people close to those with gambling addiction, such as family, partners, and carers. See their website for details or you can contact them by calling 0300 3001490 or emailing
Oral Health: listening to stakeholders

Water Fluoridation
Oral health is important for general health and wellbeing.  Poor oral health can affect someone’s ability to eat, speak, smile and socialise normally, for example due to pain or social embarrassment. Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in England, yet it is largely preventable.

Northumberland County Council is exploring the possibility of the variation of it's current community water fluoridation scheme. This is part of an overall strategic approach to improving oral health as part of the local authority's public health responsibility.

It is important to hear a range of interest group views, positive, negative or neutral.  During February and March we are seeking the views of local stakeholders and key partners through targeted focus groups and an online and paper questionnaire. This key information and insight will allow us to share and gain a collective understanding of the things to consider. The feedback provided will help inform the development of our approach to any formal consultation held later in the year.
Through the programme we will gather the responses from our targeted stakeholders. If you would like to take part you can do so by filling in the online survey by 22 March: Link to survey here. You can also email us a written response to:

Please let us know your thoughts by 22 March. Once we have heard from local stakeholders we will be produce an independent report by the end of April which will be shared with our joint committee made up of representatives from local authorities and key partners ahead of any decision being made on how to proceed.
The Integrated Wellbeing Service provides specialist health improvement support and training to local organisations and individuals with the aim of reducing health inequalities and improving the health and wellbeing of those living and working within the borough.

They have many years of experience in providing health and wellbeing services and are the leading provider within Northumberland. They are qualified educators and accredited training providers of Royal Society for Public Health and MHFA England training and qualifications. They also design and deliver bespoke training packages.

The team provides specialist health improvement training and our health trainer service offers support to
people who wish to make healthy lifestyle changes. This includes advice and support relating to healthy
eating, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake and increasing physical activity. You can find out more
about this service by ringing 01670 623840.