Public Health England set to be replaced by a new agency to specifically deal with pandemics

pharmafile | August 17, 2020 | News story | Sales and Marketing COVID, Public Health England, pandemic, phe 

Public Health England is set to be replaced with a new agency to prepare the country to deal with future pandemics, according to a Sunday Telegraph report. 

The report claims that Matt Hancock, the British Health Secretary, will announce the change this week. Ministers have been unhappy with how Public Health England has responded to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Telegraph also reports that Hancock will merge the NHS’s Test and Trace scheme with the pandemic work done by Public Health England. 

The BBC has reported seeing a leaked memo written by Duncan Selbie, the head of Public Health England, which said the aim of the new national institute would be to boost the organisation’s expertise. The memo also suggested that it could be renamed the National Institute for Health and Protection, and could launch in September. 

It is reportedly based on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, an independent agency that has taken the lead on Germany’s response to the pandemic. 

Many doctors and public health experts are criticising the government for this move, saying they are trying to scapegoat Public Health England for their own failings in response to the pandemic. 

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the President of the Royal Society of Medicine and a former adviser to the government, told the Guardian: “PHE employs some of the best, brightest and most hardworking clinicians and experts we have. There are simply not enough of them, which can partly be explained by the steady reduction in funding over the last seven years. Perhaps we do need a more joined-up structure, but we should not scapegoat PHE for the failures in the system in which they are but one cog.”

An anonymous senior figure at Public Health England, also told the Guardian: “It is just not right nor fair to pin all blame like this. We wouldn’t claim to have got everything right, who can? But we don’t operate unilaterally from the chief medical officer or ministers.”

Conor Kavanagh

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