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UK plans to launch new national health agency focused on tackling pandemics

The UK Health Security Agency will protect against future health threats

A new national health agency is set to launch in the UK in April, focusing on the prevention of and response to external health threats such as infectious diseases.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will protect against future health threats, and will take over the COVID-19 pandemic response from Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock initially unveiled the new agency in August 2020 as the National Institute for Health Protection, which was created to replace PHE.

At that time, the agency was set to be led by Baroness Dido Harding, current head of NHS Test and Trace.

It has since been announced that the UKHSA will be led by England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries, who previously served on the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the UKHSA will combine key elements of PHE with the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and NHS Test and Trace.

This includes harnessing the data analytics and genomic surveillance capabilities of these organisations, along with scale testing and contract tracing capability.

While the new agency’s primary phase of operation will be the continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will also become the UK’s go-to organisation for health security.

The UKHSA will plan for, seek to prevent and respond to external health threats, enabling the nation to respond quickly and ‘at greater scale’ to pandemics and future threats.

“The pandemic has put the UK’s health security capabilities in sharp focus and the UKHSA will change the way we approach health protection,” said Harries.

“With the creation of the UKHSA, we have an unprecedented opportunity to build on the scientific and operational strength that has been developed, learn from the past and further develop strong bonds with health protection leadership from global to local, to ensure we are ready for the challenges of the future.

“The UKHSA will be agile in its responses, maximise the benefits of high-quality data, be relentless in its mission to rapidly identify and respond to new threats, whilst working seamlessly with academia, scientists, industry and local communities,” she added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

25th March 2021

From: Healthcare

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