Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s been urged to reverse “alarming” plans to ditch Public Health England (PHE) in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government is replacing PHE with the National Institute for Health Protection, amid criticism of how it performed as the pandemic loomed.
The new organisation will focus primarily on pandemic planning and, in the interim, be headed up by Track and Trace chief Baroness Dido Harding.
The Tory peer is married to Conservative MP John Penrose, a member of 1828 advisory board which previously suggested the NHS be replaced with an insurance system.
In a stinging letter from a doctor’s group, the Health Secretary’s been warned her appointment is simply “eroding” trust in his Government from NHS staff
And the Doctors Association UK (DAUK) say the decision to scrap PHE during a pandemic is a “knee-jerk reaction” which could ultimately do more harm than good.
“This step jeopardises decades of progress made in improving the health of our nation, risks misusing funds in the midst of a pandemic and removes the scope of public health from the hands of experts,” states the pressure group.
The new body replaces the quango, with a focus “on tackling Covid-19 and protecting the nation’s health”.
PHE primarily tackled issues like obesity, diabetes and smoking.
However former Tory MP and GP Dr Sarah Woollaston tweeted: “Seeking to scapegoat (PHE) is extraordinary after cutting public health funding for years”.
in the letter to Matt Hancock, DAUK say PHE worked on an “incredibly tight” budget of £300m-a-year- which works out at less than a fiver for every Brit.
And with issues like diabetes and obesity linked to worse health outcomes among Covid-19 patients, the pressure group adds: “It is therefore alarming PHE will be disbanded.
“As doctors we feel strongly that a focus solely upon this as our only public health priority would be short-sighted and could undoubtedly result in untold damage to the health of the population for many decades to come, further burdening our already struggling NHS.”
And outlining the group’s pleas, Dr Lizzie Toberty, from the GP advisory group, added: “(The decision to scrap PHE) appears to be a knee-jerk reaction that could actively harm recent public health efforts by this Government to tackle health inequalities, obesity and smoking, which costs taxpayer’s and the NHS billions each year.
“A sustainable NHS can only be built on a foundation of a properly funded public health department.”
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