CIEH calls for Chief Environmental Health Officer for England

06 January 2021, Ross Matthewman

CIEH has welcomed the appointment of Dr Huw Brunt as Chief Environmental Public Health Officer for Wales, and called for a similar post to be created in England.

Dr Brunt is a Public Health Consultant with a background in environmental health and a PhD in air quality and public health research. With over 20 years experience, he has held a variety of roles across local and central government, and the NHS in Wales.

CIEH’s new President, Julie Barratt, has welcomed Dr Brunt to his role and demanded that the UK Government creates a similar post covering England to stop the nation missing out on this valuable resource.

Chief Environmental Health Officers (CEHOS) have unique skill sets operating as the glue between government department functions, such as understanding housing and links to health and the need for open green spaces, the link between food production and climate change, or emergency and land use planning.

CEHOs also manage key networks across local authorities and Environmental Health Professionals (EHPs) working in business and industry, allowing for a greater understanding and early identification of new and emerging issues. With public health concerns dominating the agenda, this has become increasingly vital.

From COVID-19, to Brexit and food standards, to clean air and environmental protection, environmental health skills and expertise in government in now paramount.  

Julie Barratt, CIEH President, said:

“I am delighted that Dr Brunt has taken up his new post in Wales and we look forward to working closely with him going forwards.

However, his appointment has again shone a light on the absence of this key role in England. Recent events have shown the importance of environmental health across the board in tackling some of the key issues facing our country. It is about time this is reflected in government.

A Chief Environmental Health Officer for England is now an absolute necessity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that government lacks a full understanding of the environmental health workforce; what skills it has, where it is, and how best it can be used when the need arises. A Chief Environmental Health Officer for England involved in Covid planning would have been able to manage and direct the valuable environmental health resource to better support efforts in areas such as contact tracing.

For this new role to be effective they must be part of government, be an experienced Environmental Health Professional, and sit in the Chief Medical Officer’s department with the ability to advise government directly. 

With Northern Ireland, along with Wales, also having this role, it is clear that England is desperately missing out on a vital resource.”

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