Susan O’Looney - Head of Public Health Commissioning

February's "2 Minutes With...", PHPN's regular feature for the North-West Population Health & Prevention Network caught up with Susan O’Looney, Head of Public Health Commissioning for Liverpool City Council.

Sue O'Looney

Tell us about your role...

Currently my role as Head of Public Health Commissioning provides me with a much broader area of responsibility across services including Substance Misuse, Sexual Health and Health Improvement services.

I am responsible for ensuring that these services are appropriately commissioned to meet the needs of the public and in particular are targeted at those that need these services the most .

Reducing health inequalities and improving health and well-being in Liverpool by focusing on people/places with the greatest level of need, by tackling social and economic factors that affect people’s health.

Collaborating with providers and communities to improve health outcomes through population-wide behaviour change, using all available resources to support people to make the right choices about their health.

How did you get into your area of work?

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was introduced and under the revised structures my role as Addictions and Offender Health Commissioner was disbanded due to the budgets being split between Liverpool City Council and NHSE and I was successful in gaining the broader role of Head of Public Health Commissioning.

Tell us about your public health career journey...

My career in Public Health started in 2013. However, I have worked in the health and social care sector for 28 years , this experience has enabled me to create and implement changes to the Public health Commissioning landscape, through:

  • Transforming service delivery and achieving significant savings.
  • The development of a structured approach to enable more integrated interventions for all service users. E.g. integrated young persons and adult substance misuse services.
  • Secure value for money and ensure full compliance with Liverpool City Council’s Financial and Contract Standing Orders.

Tell us more...

As the Head of Commissioning, it is my duty to ensure that public funds are spent appropriately and that services are commissioned based on the needs of the population. In recent years there have been significant budget cuts to the sector, which has meant having to make difficult decisions and taking the responsibility for making important decisions with regards to the decommissioning of particular services, founded on a strong evidence base to lessen the impact on residents as much as possible.

I also have an important role in ensuring positive relationships between stakeholders across service providers and with other commissioners across the local authority, Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England, both locally and regionally. These positive relationships and joint commissioning of services during a time of austerity have proven to be important in ensuring service provision across a wide range of services. In addition to this, I also have to manage working in a politically charged environment and having to meet regularly with councillors and other elected members of the council.

What have been your career highlights / greatest career achievements?

Establishing the Liverpool Community Alcohol Service (LCAS) in 2011 was a particular highlight.
Prior to that date, the city had no joined up community provision. We had to make a convincing case to the board of the PCT in order to gain approval to set up the service. We followed a tight procurement timescale and the service was up and running across the city.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

As the lead commissioner for drug and alcohol treatment services, our services deal with some of the most chaotic, complex people in the city. When I meet people who have been treated by our services and have gone on to live productive lives free of addiction, it gives me all the motivation I need!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the sense of achievement when I work with colleagues to deliver new services and see it come to fruition.

On the flipside, what do you enjoy least about your job?

The least enjoyable element can be the bureaucracy involved in getting new services established. I know and agree that it is necessary…but it can be draining!

Lastly, would you recommend your job to others? If so, why?

Yes, leading on the overall commissioning process for Public Health allows me to plan services that will meet the populations needs that is underpinned by data.