The Department for Health has announced that Public Health England will be replaced by a new organisation whose primary focus is public health protection and infectious disease capability.
The National Institute for Health Protection will bring together Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace, as well as the analytical capability of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) under a single leadership team to boost the UK’s ability to deal with and recover from COVID-19 and meet health challenges of the coming winter.
The NIHP will start work immediately although the organisation will be formalised and be operating from spring 2021.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.
“The National Institute for Health Protection will bring together the expertise of PHE with the enormous response capabilities of NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to put us in the best possible position for the next stage of the fight against COVID-19 and for the long term,” he added.
The responsibilities of the NIHP will include:
- NIHP local health protection teams to deal with infections and other threats
- Support and resources for local authorities to manage local outbreaks
- The COVID-19 testing programme
- Contact tracing
- The Joint Biosecurity Centre
- Emergency response and preparedness to deal with the most severe incidents at national and local level
- Research and reference laboratories and associated services
- Specialist epidemiology and surveillance of all infectious diseases
- The Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards
- Global health security
- Providing specialistic scientific advice on immunisation and countermeasures
The NIHP will be a new organisation whose primary focus is to ensure the country has the best capability to control infectious disease and deal with pandemics or health protection crises. It will take on existing UK-wide responsibilities and it will work with local government, the NHS and the devolved administrations to ensure the strongest possible health protection system for the whole of the UK is in place. It will build on the existing strong working relationships between the four nations of the UK, including on data-sharing, alert levels and border issues.
The new organisation will report directly to the Health and Care Secretary and support the clinical leadership of the four UK chief medical officers.
Baroness Dido Harding is the Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection. Supporting Baroness Harding in her role will be Michael Brodie, who has been appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer of PHE. Michael is currently CEO of the NHS Business Services Authority.
Duncan Selbie, the outgoing PHE Chief Executive, will be taking on a role as a senior advisor to the Department of Health and Social Care on global and public health.
Baroness Dido Harding said: “The changes announced today are designed to strengthen our response, and to radically ramp up our fight against this disease, whilst also protecting PHE’s essential work beyond COVID that is so important for the nation’s health.”
The NIHP will seek to learn from the best systems around the world and work with local directors of public health and their teams, to use their crucial insight and intelligence to deliver a world-class service.
Preventing ill health and reducing health inequalities also remains a top priority. Over the coming weeks and months, the DHSC and PHE experts will engage on future options on decisions around the future of PHE’s remaining health improvement functions, including how to support a successful wider public health system to ensure we have the best possible capability and capacity to support people to improve their health.