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Public Health England to become the National Institute for Health Protection
A new organisation, the National Institute for Health Protection will replace Public Health England (PHE) Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced recently. But why change an existing structure like PHE now, amid a pandemic?
Well, Matt Hancock claims that the National Institute for Health Protection will have one fundamental mission- to protect the UK population from external threats to their health. He proposes this novel organisation will be a world-leading, strong, and focused Institute that will be prepared to address all future pandemics and infectious disease that may land on UK soil.
What will the proposed new Institute involve?
The new Institute will manage external threats like biological weapons, pandemics, and all infectious diseases. The National Institute for Health Protection will incorporate the joint Biosecurity centre, which is an expert advisory organisation on pandemics.
Created in 2013, PHE will be scrapped and merged into a whole new robust organisation that aims to prevent future outbreaks of infectious diseases. The main reason behind this move to shut down PHE, according to Ministers, is the sheer frustration with PHE over the testing and tracing of COVID-19 samples, and the counting policy on COVID-19 related fatalities.
What do the experts think of this initiative?
Prof Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal Society of Medicine, claims that PHE is laced with competent medical personnel, and the lack of these professionals is the main contributing problem with PHE failings. He assures Government Ministers that staff shortages are the primary rationale behind any lagging in PHE testing and tracing. More funding needs to be put into recruitment and retention for healthcare staff rather than a whole new organisational restructuring, he claims.
Healthcare executives and NHS management officials support Prof Sir Wessely’s thoughts and highlight the government’s failings as at least partially responsible for the PHE inadequacies. Health experts suggest PHE is an agency of the Department of Health and Social Care unlike other health bodies like NHS England and Care Quality Commission; thus Ministers have more control over PHE activities, and so must take responsibility for any failures along with successes.
While many feel PHE should not take all the blame for any mishaps in testing and tracing, as COVID is an unprecedented pandemic, Ministers are shoving the blame in PHE’s direction.
What will the new organisation do?
Whatever the reasons it looks like the new organisation will be modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute and will set out to protect the UK against future pandemics. The new organisation will be a disease control infrastructure with the capacity to respond to pandemics and other infectious diseases successfully. Collaborating with NHS test-and-trace programme, the novel Institute will solely focus on health protection and combine health protection services.
New investment will drive the Institute to raise our scientific capabilities and lead the way globally with expert health protection structures.
The new organisation looks set to be introduced shortly, and we await further updates from the Health Minister.
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