More powers needed for Environmental Health Practitioners to tackle COVID-19

09 October 2020, Ross Matthewman

CIEH has called on the Government to give more powers to Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) in England to allow them to tackle non-COVID secure businesses.

CIEH’s call for more powers comes in advance of Monday 12 October when the UK Government will reportedly announce further lockdown restrictions across England.

EHPs have played a vital role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, from supporting contact tracing efforts, to business closure enforcement during the first stage of lockdown. Following the gradual reopening of businesses over the course of the summer, EHPs have been at the forefront of inspecting establishments to ensure that they are COVID-secure and complying with government guidelines.

However, there is currently a significant gap in enforcement powers available to EHPs in England who are hamstrung in addressing those businesses that are failing to comply with COVID-Secure requirements. These businesses pose a real risk to public health and could cause an increase in local cases which in turn has the potential to lead to a local outbreak and the need for further local lockdowns.

EHPs in England need more immediate powers to deal with businesses that are failing to follow the rules. Presently, they are required to demonstrate a “serious and imminent threat to public health”, formally seek advice from the Director of Public Health, and then notify the Secretary of State. This is overly bureaucratic and time consuming.

CIEH has now joined with the Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM) in calling on the Government to streamline this process and provide the appropriate powers to EHPs to take action.

Kate Thompson, CIEH Wales Director, said:

“Given the important role being played by Environmental Health Practitioners in fighting COVID-19 and ensuring that our businesses are safe and adhering to government guidelines, it is time they were given the support they need.

With further restrictions now imminent, this has become even more essential.

The plethora of hoops EHPs in England currently have to jump through to carry out vital elements of their roles in keeping us safe is self-defeating. They are attempting to do their jobs with one arm tied behind their backs.

In Wales local authorities can serve premises improvement notice or close premises that do not take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to COVID-19. This is far more straightforward and saves time and resources.

We are calling on the Government to provide EHPs in England with the powers they need to be able to take swift and decisive action against establishments who are flouting government guidance and endangering our public health.”

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