President’s response to the UK Health Security Agency

Yesterday [Wednesday 24 March] the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced a new UK health agency: The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

This agency will plan for, prevent and respond to external health threats such as infectious diseases. In response to this announcement our President, Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, said:

“I am pleased to hear the news of the establishment of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which aims to protect the future health of the nation. I particularly welcome the much-deserved recognition of strengthening health protection science as a crucial element of UK capabilities in the announcement. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the immense contribution of science to respond effectively to threats to the nation’s health.

“Last August, when it was announced Public Health England was to be replaced, the Academy wrote to the Health and Social Care Secretary. Some of our asks have been touched on in yesterday’s announcement, such as strong links with the Devolved Administrations and local directors of public health, and recognising the need to reduce inequalities and address the wider determinants of health – which have been further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are key issues which are not mentioned in detail and should be incorporated into the setup of the UKHSA.

“We need more information about how the UKHSA will effectively integrate with the new NHS structures set out in the Department of Health and Social Care’s recent White Paper, as well as with the future arrangements for health improvement that are currently being designed. These must all work closely together – this will be critical in ensuring the success of the UKHSA, and in improving, protecting and securing the health of the nation.

“The UKHSA needs to lead cutting edge research in collaboration with academic and other partners so that its activities are evidence-based and informed by the most rigorous and up to date scientific research. To deliver on this, we need to see more detail on how the UKHSA will work with the wider research community. It must also develop networks for international collaboration – to share public health learnings and to help deliver on global health security. COVID-19 is a stark reminder of how interlinked the health of all nations is and a reminder that science works best when it is a global endeavour.  

“Importantly, the most effective health protection strategies are developed with those they are trying to impact and support. I welcome the ambition to work with the public and urge the UKHSA to work closely with local communities and engage with, and listen to, relevant groups to design real-world interventions that will work in practise and at scale. I would also recommend sustained communications about the new agency to ensure an awareness that supporting the health of the public lies at the heart of its mission.

“The Academy is poised to work with this new agency. As a first step, we look forward to inputting into the consultation on the proposals and to working with partners across the sector to help shape future arrangements and build an integrated multidisciplinary  public health system that is fit for the 21st century.” 

 

-ENDS-

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