The Academy has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ask that prevention and health improvement remain top of the health agenda, that these remain connected with health protection, and that all are underpinned by excellent scientific research.
This letter was written in response to recent announcements about the establishment of a new National Institute for Health Protection, which will focus on the UK’s response to COVID-19 and other domestic and global threats to health. This new institute will bring together the existing health protection responsibilities of Public Health England (PHE) with NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
Future arrangements for prevention and health improvement, including PHE’s remaining functions, have yet to be decided. A Population Health Improvement Stakeholder Advisory Group has been established to provide expert advice to ministers on the possible options.
Our letter urges the Secretary of State to consider four key principles when developing future arrangements for prevention, health improvement and health protection, including that initiatives in these areas must be:
- Informed by the most rigorous and up to date scientific research.
- Fully integrated with services in local authorities and linked into academia and NHS structures at a national, regional and local level.
- Attractive to world-leading public health experts, while retaining the wealth of expertise currently within Public Health England.
- And that prevention and health improvement must be aligned with health protection initiatives taken forward by the National Institute for Health Protection.
The Academy calls for the establishment of a new national body with responsibility for prevention and health improvement. This body should be sufficiently independent to provide independent, evidence-based, authoritative scientific advice and insight. The letter provides further details on a proposed structure and funding arrangements for this new body.
Reviewing the organisation of public health structures in the UK presents a unique opportunity to build an even stronger system with evidence-based practice at its core. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we get this right.
For more information on our work around the pandemic, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 information hub.