North Somerset: overview

North Somerset Council is a unitary authority responsible for a population of some 212,000 people. Situated on the M5 corridor, it extends from the edge of Bristol and the River Avon in the north, to the River Axe and the Mendip Hills in the south. It has areas of beautiful countryside (including the Gordano Valley National Nature Reserve, and the Mendip Hills, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty), splendid coastal areas and distinctive towns and villages.

It is also home to Bristol Airport, a substantial and expanding commercial concern, and the area is very well connected to the rest of the UK and beyond by road, rail, air and sea. It has 79 schools and the Ofsted-graded ‘outstanding’ Weston College for further and higher education and achieves above-average results, increasing year-on-year, at both GCSE and A-level.

North Somerset has many district communities with 35 rural parishes and four towns: Weston-super-Mare (a large seaside resort which includes the famous Weston Grand Pier), Clevedon (a Victorian seaside town), Nailsea (a new town built around the original village), and Portishead (a seaside town with its own marina and views across the River Severn and the two Severn Bridges).

Whilst, overall, most health and well-being measures for the area are better than average, there are substantial health inequalities with differences in life expectancy at birth of some ten years between those people living in the most affluent and the most deprived areas (which are predominantly in and around the area of Weston-super-Mare). North Somerset is also home to a higher proportion of people aged over 65 years than nationally (23.5% vs 17.9%). There are thus significant public health challenges to manage including both health inequalities and the increasing prevalence of long-term conditions.

The director for public health’s remit has recently expanded to include both drug and alcohol services and regulatory services. The synergies between these provides a wide range of opportunities to improve and to protect people’s health and well-being.

The team consists of the director, two consultants in public health, team leaders for various commissioned services (such as health visiting and school nursing, sexual health) and provider services such as smoking cessation and peer support services to promote both breast feeding and family development) and the council’s regulatory services of food and safety, environmental health and licensing, and trading standards. There are close working arrangements with other council teams including, but not limited to adult services, children’s services, planning and housing.

The public health team works closely with its counterparts in both Bristol and South Gloucestershire and with Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG whose boundaries are congruent with the three local authorities.

Training opportunities

Public health registrars at all stages of their training are welcome. Currently, the director acts as the educational supervisor and the consultants, and others, provide clinical and project supervision. There are considerable opportunities to work not just on the more traditional public health training topics but with staff elsewhere in the council, especially concerning environmental health, food safety, community safety, trading standards, children’s services and adult services, and to learn about council governance systems and decision-making (which is crucial to the delivery of population-level health improvement interventions and the development and implementation of strategy.

We see public health registrars as important members of the wider team and seek to provide a broad experience that will both meet educational requirements and be varied and enjoyable. We encourage registrars to share their learning experiences with the wider team and, there can be opportunities to do this more widely in the council. We have good relationships with neighbouring councils and the NHS and are happy to support buddy arrangements and joint-learning opportunities.

If you are interested in a placement in North Somerset, please contact Matt Lenny, Director for Public Health, on 01934 427648 or email him at matt.lenny@n-somerset.gov.uk.  It will be important to also discuss matters with your current educational supervisor and the training programme team. We shall be pleased to arrange informal visits and discussions as well as formal joint-handover meetings.