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Matt Hancock unveils new National Institute for Health Protection

Public Health England to be replaced with new government body

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured above) has unveiled the new body that is set to replace Public Health England (PHE), days after reports that the agency was to be axed over its coronavirus response.

The new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) will replace PHE, and is set to be led by Baroness Dido Harding, the current head of NHS Test and Trace in England.

It will be closely modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, a government agency which is solely focused on disease control and prevention.

According to a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the NIHP will start work immediately, with a focus on the country’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The organisation will then be finalised and fully operational from spring 2021. Under the new body, PHE and NHS Test and Trace will be combined, along with the Joint Biosecurity Centre, under a single leadership team.

“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 Hancock.

There are still questions, however, over what will happen to PHE’s work on illness prevention and health inequality. Experts from the DHSC and PHE will discuss the future of this work and PHE’s remaining health improvement functions over the coming weeks and months.

"Preventative healthcare should be front and centre of plans for the NHS post COVID-19,” said Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

“It’s important we understand how the wider work on prevention and public health will be taken forward, where responsibility and accountability will sit, and how the new organisation will work with health partners,” he added.

It is clear that the primary focus of the newly created NIHP is almost solely on pandemic preparedness, as ministers face criticism over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Critics have described the decision to axe PHE as scapegoating the agency for the overall government failings in its response to the pandemic.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

19th August 2020

From: Healthcare

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