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UK Health Security Agency starts work

New body is one of two that will take over PHE’s remit, and that of NHS Test and Trace.
01 April 2021 , Sarah Campbell

The organisation replacing Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace has today (1 April) started work under a new name: the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Since August last year it has been working under a temporary title, National Institute of Health Protection. The formal establishment of the UKHSA “will bring together cutting-edge capabilities in analytics with our growing testing and tracing capability alongside the spectrum of health protection knowledge and science in PHE”, said Michael Brodie, interim chief executive of PHE, in a letter last week to stakeholders.

The UKHSA’s new chief executive is Jenny Harries, former deputy chief medical officer for England. It also has a new chair: Ian Peters, former managing director of British Gas.

Brodie will remain in post to support the transition and to lead the delivery of PHE’s health improvement and public health functions, which will be transferred to another new body, the Office for Health Promotion (OHP). This will be established by the autumn.

The OHP will recruit an expert lead who will report into the Health Secretary and the chief medical officer. It aims to bring together a range of skills to lead public health policies and will sit within the Department of Health and Social Care.

CIEH welcomed the new bodies but urged the government not to overlook EH expertise as they are set up. Gary McFarlane, CIEH’s director for Northern Ireland, said: “CIEH welcomes any developments which strengthen and improve public health. We would now like to see government establish a professional EH role within government as is the case in both Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as EH roles within these new bodies.

“The work of EH officers is, and always has been, a key part of public health in the UK. England needs a chief EHO to work along with the other key public health professionals in government. We look forward to ongoing discussions with government to realise this.”

A task group is currently looking at the long-term sustainability of regulatory services including EH, licensing and trading standards. The group comprises several EHPs, including CIEH representatives, and one of its aims is to investigate the feasibility of introducing a chief EHO role in the Westminster government. Read more about it in the April issue of EHN (login required).

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