Coronavirus: Dido Harding will be temporarily at the head of a new health agency


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Andrew Parsons / 10 Downing Street / Crown Copyright

Baroness Dido Harding, who heads NHS Test and Trace in England, will be the interim head of the government’s new health protection institute.

The agency – which is slated to launch on Tuesday – will merge some of Public Health England (PHE) ‘s pandemic response work with the coronavirus testing and tracing system.

Lady Harding will head the new institute until a permanent appointment is made.

PHE has come under scrutiny in its response to the coronavirus crisis.

He has been criticized for March’s controversial decision to end community testing and contact tracing.

But his supporters say he is becoming the scapegoat for failures elsewhere in government.

For now, SPE will continue its role in the fight against obesity and the implementation of other measures to prevent health problems.

A leaked memo seen by the BBC, written by PHE chief Duncan Selbie to staff, said the goal of the new National Institute for Health Protection was to build expertise with “much needed new investments” .

The new institute will begin its work with immediate effect.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said the decision to merge the pandemic functions of PHE with those of NHS Test and Trace raised more questions than answers, including when the scrapping was announced. of a national public health agency in the midst of a global pandemic.

Christina Marriott, Chief Executive Officer of RSPH, said: “We recognize that there have been serious challenges in terms of responding to Covid-19, including timing of lockdown, continued ineffectiveness of Tier 2 Track and Trace and data at the postcode level previously not. be available to public health directors. ”

She said “several lessons” needed to be learned “before solutions can be put in place before winter,” adding: “doing otherwise risks avoidable mistakes in subsequent waves of the pandemic which will only further harm public health “.

PHE expertise is “irreplaceable”

Professor Richard Tedder, Visiting Professor of Medical Virology at Imperial College London, championed PHE as a “gathering of some of the wisest and most committed microbiologists and epidemiologists you can hope for anywhere”.

He criticized what he called “persistent interference from above” which he said had “disenfranchised and fractured” staff “to the great detriment of the UK as a whole”.

Professor Tedder warned that plans to merge existing lab staff with the NHS Test and Trace were ‘misplaced’ and ‘would further dismantle’ the ‘irreplaceable’ expertise that exists within PHE.

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democratic Party spokesperson for health, welfare and welfare criticized the decision to promote “a conservative insider who is responsible for the sub-par test and traceability system.”

She said in a tweet that “full transparency” was needed for such appointments.

Labor shadow Minister of Health Justin Madders said in a tweet that there had been “no transparency or accountability” in the appointment of Baroness Harding.


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