Government to scrap PHE

The government is to abolish Public Health England (PHE), it has announced. A new organisation, The National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP), will instead bring together PHE and NHS Test and Trace and focus on a ‘rigorous science-led approach to public health protection’.

Matt Hancock: ‘A new organisation with a new approach’

Although the new body is to start work immediately it will not be formalised until next spring in order to ‘minimise disruption’, the government says. NIHP’s responsibilities will include the COVID-19 testing programme, emergency response and preparedness, and specialist epidemiology and surveillance of infectious diseases. ‘To give ourselves the best chance of beating this virus once and for all – and of spotting and being ready to respond to other health threats, now and in the future – we are creating a brand new organisation to provide a new approach to public health protection and resilience,’ said health secretary Matt Hancock.’

As the announcement was made it was unclear what the exact arrangements would be for the Alcohol, Drugs & Tobacco part of PHE’s Health and Wellbeing Directorate. In a speech to the Policy Exchange Hancock said that PHE’s prevention and health improvement agenda would be ‘embedded right across government’, with a consultation to follow. ‘I’ll be saying more on this over the coming weeks,’ he stated. DHSC will also be organising an external stakeholder advisory group to support this and ‘provide expert advice from leading thinkers in public health, health care and local government’, the government says.

Interim executive chair of the new organisation will be Baroness Dido Harding, while the interim chief executive officer of PHE will be Michael Brodie, currently CEO of NHS Business Services Authority. Outgoing PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie will take up a post as senior advisor to DHSC on global and public health.