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Tuesday, 15 June 2021, Ross Matthewman
CIEH has called on MPs and members of the House of Lords to protect the country’s environmental health workforce.
CIEH recently published the concerning results of its inaugural workforce survey of environmental health professionals across the country, finding that over half of local authorities are not taking on trainees or apprentices in environmental health, due to funding and capacity issues. It has now provided further briefings for Parliamentarians and called on them to ensure that the profession is not hollowed out.
Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) have played a vital role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, from supporting contact tracing efforts, to business closure enforcement during lockdown, and were classified by the UK Governments as “Key Workers”. Following the gradual reopening of businesses, EHPs have been at the forefront of inspecting establishments to ensure that they are COVID-secure and working with businesses to help them comply with government guidelines.
Last September, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, recognised the value of environmental health and vowed to create a new national register of EHPs, highlighting their role in fighting the pandemic.
The findings from CIEH's workforce survey are deeply concerning as both trainees and apprenticeships are key routes into the profession, as practical training is an integral part of the qualification process. If unchecked, the current state of affairs could cut away at the roots of the profession and deprive communities across the nation of an essential local resource.
Key findings from CIEH’s Workforce Survey:
CIEH has called for a range of key stakeholders to come together to support the future of the environmental health profession. In particular, the report asks the UK Government to:
CIEH’s Workforce Survey report also includes information on capacities, budgets and the future outlook for environmental health teams in local authorities in England, with the data presenting one of the most comprehensive pictures of the profession at the present time.
Dr Phil James, Chief Executive of CIEH, said:
“Environmental health professionals have played a huge role during this past year, from ensuring that businesses re-open safely to supporting vulnerable members of the community and putting together strategic plans locally. Now it is time to focus on this multi-skilled profession and provide support to the people who have been working tirelessly to protect us in recent months.
The Government, and the Prime Minister himself, have recognised the importance of environmental health, and it is essential that they now tangibly support the profession.
Our research clearly points to shortages of fully qualified and experienced officers and we need to put plans in place right away to ensure that we are supporting young people and career changers to enter the profession as well as providing the necessary funding to support employers in training the next generation of environmental health practitioners.
We are calling on MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum to stand up for environmental health and commit to providing the right support. Failing to do so could see this valuable profession hollowed out and a vital resource for communities across our country lost.”