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Portrait of Virginia

Dr. Virginia Pearson

Job title: Director of Public Health

Area of work: Public Health

Our well-respected Director of Public Health, Dr. Virginia Pearson, will be retiring in September 2020. We took the opportunity to speak to Virginia about her achievements during her time with Devon and the challenges and opportunities for our future leader of Public Health.

“Public Health transferred into Devon County Council from the NHS in 2013. Right from the start I was impressed by the way Public Health was placed at the heart of everything the Council does, in a role reporting directly to the CEO and part of the Council’s Leadership Group.

“Practically everything we do involves partners, and this enables Public Health to play an important role in system leadership. There is much to be gained for the communities of Devon from working across boundaries, for example by embedding Public Health in the sustainability and transformation partnership through our joint working with the NHS at a local level in the development of the Integrated Care System.

“Our relationships with local elected Members, both in the County and District councils, enables us to directly influence the main determinants of health and wellbeing for the people of Devon.

“Although health and wellbeing outcomes in Devon are generally good, or excellent, there are pockets of deep deprivation, often in rural areas, and an older than average demographic. Devon has a population of 780,000 and covers over 2,500 square miles. Journeys from one side of the county to the other can take over two hours and so, as a large place with many diverse communities, it is crucial to understand what it is like for residents living in local communities and their priorities. Our Public Health intelligence function and work on population health management underpins this.

“I think my biggest achievement in my time with Devon County Council is developing the role of the Director of Public Health as a system leader, particularly with a place-based focus.

“Since 2016, I have had the opportunity to lead a larger division of the Council comprising of teams within Communities, Public Health, Environment and Prosperity. Working in this model has created a place-based approach to strategic planning for population health and wellbeing. We would envisage this cross-Council approach continuing and developing in the future.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Devon County Council as an employer. The Public Health team and I have benefited from the autonomy we have had and the learning from the wider Leadership Group. Devon encourages innovation and we are proud of the successes we have achieved.

“Working in Public Health in Devon is like being part of a family. I have worked with so many wonderful colleagues over the years, and I will miss them all. In my opinion, Devon must be one of the best places in the country to work as a Director of Public Health as there is so much appreciation of the role and so many great colleagues to work with.”

Our Chief Executive, Phil Norrey believes: “The health and wellbeing of the people of Devon, and how we work with our partners and communities to achieve the best outcomes for residents, is a priority for the County Council. As a key member of our Leadership Group, the Director of Public Health role is pivotal in ensuring this is reflected in our work across the authority and in the way we shape and deliver our services.

“This is an opportunity to build on the fantastic work of Virginia and her team in understanding the needs and concerns of people in Devon, and to influence the future direction of the authority to make sure we are truly doing what really matters for citizens.”