“The Secretary of State’s decision to redesign Public Health England’s role to give it a greater focus on health protection may have some logic. But it is certainly a risky manoeuvre in the midst of a pandemic where the current organisation and its highly trained and dedicated staff need to be focussed on the vital work they are doing. 

However, the real problem is the complete absence of detail of what happens to the ‘prevention’ elements of PHE’s work. There remain deep seated problems for society and for millions of people every day from diseases caused by obesity or linked to smoking or drinking too much, so the prevention agenda is crucial. And, as we enter what’s set to be a significant downturn in the economy, health inequalities certainly look set to be amplified. Unless these problems are tackled head on with a national strategy and adequate funding, the overall health of the population will decline. Public Health England was beginning to make real headway on these pressing issues. Unless it is replaced with something equally powerful and well-led we will only see the NHS being even more stretched as it struggles to pick up the pieces.”

 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair Academy of Medical Royal Colleges