New agency to fight coronavirus as Public Health England scrapped


The future of public health in England is expected to be announced later by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.Mr Hancock is due to speak at the Policy Exchange think tank titled The Future of Public Health.

It comes amid reports that Public Health England (PHE) must be removed.

The government has been criticized over the prospect of dismantling the health care organization in the midst of a pandemic.

Ministers have also been accused of using the BSP as a “scapegoat” for other failures of the crisis.

On Monday, the boss of the besieged organization apologized to staff for breaking news of the organization’s disappearance.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said he was “beyond words sorry” that the future of the organization had been told by the media before its staff were told.

A story placed with The Sunday Telegraph suggests that PHE’s Covid-19 response work must be merged with NHS Test and Trace to form a new organism designed specifically to deal with pandemics.

Other aspects of its operations, such as tackling obesity, could be left to councils and family doctors, the newspaper said.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, a new institute for health protection will become “effective” from next month, although the merger will take until next spring to complete.

Other reports suggest Baroness Dido Harding, who heads NHS England’s Test and Trace system, will be the acting head of the new agency.

Mr Selbie said no organization can ‘do it all right’ and praised staff for their efforts during the pandemic.

The memo to staff, seen by the HSJ, said: “I am sorry beyond words for the way decisions about our future were communicated to the media before I had a chance to explain them.

“The Prime Minister and Secretary of State wish to recreate an organization that focuses solely on health protection and bring our health protection services together with the budgets and manpower of the NHS testing and tracing program to create a new national institute of health. protection. ”

He added: “Any organization that says it has done everything right is wrong and no public health body goes into a pandemic expecting to look the same as a result.

“However, no one remote from our work of the past eight years, and since January on the pandemic, would agree with the headlines that this change reflects ‘pandemic failure’ on our part.

“It is certainly not what the Secretary of State believes or says in public or in private.

“No public body has done more to protect the health of the population than SPE and has more reason to be proud of its contribution.”

Responding to reports that Public Health England needs to be replaced, a spokesperson for No 10 said on Monday: ‘We have always said that we have to learn the right lessons from the crisis and act to ensure that government structures are able to cope.

“But I would like to stress that PES have played a vital role in our response to this unprecedented pandemic, working on important issues such as detection, surveillance, contact tracing and testing.”

But critics said if ministers were not happy with PHE’s performance, they could only blame themselves as it is directly under ministerial control.

Unite’s National Health Officer Jackie Williams said: “It’s clear that Public Health England and its dedicated staff are lined up to be the guy to fall for the continual scuffles from Boris Johnson and his ministers since the appearance. coronavirus at the start of the year. ”

Karen Middleton, Executive Director of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “There have clearly been setbacks in dealing with the Covid pandemic, but PHE’s scapegoat is unfair and potentially dangerous.

“A number of people and organizations are responsible for managing the pandemic, not just PES.

“It sounds like a crass attempt to pass the blame. ”

Christina Marriott, Executive Director of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “We question the timing of the announcement of the termination of our national public health agency amid a global pandemic and before the onset of any public inquiry, let alone reported.


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