Public Health England
Public Health England (PHE) began operation on 1 April 2013 as an executive agency of government of the Department of Health. It mission 'is to protect and improve the nation's health and to address inequalities'.
The bulk of PHE comprises the Health Protection Agency (HPA), much of which has carried on its work more-or-less unchanged, under the new PHE logo. Other arms-length bodies that will move into Public Health England will include:
- National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA)
- Public Health Observatories
- Cancer Registries (see also Wikipedia Cancer registry page)
- Regional Public Health Groups
- Department of Health policy staff
- National Screening Committee
It is usual practice for employees of Executive Agencies to be civil servants, working to the Civil Service code.
This requires a level of secrecy which many consider incompatible with the role of a consultant, let alone a consultant in public health medicine or communicable disease control. Such professionals need to be free to speak up for the populations they serve, free from political constraint; and should have the right to participate in political activity in a way which is not permitted for civil servants.
There is a precedent for Executive Agency staff remaining on non-Civil Service Terms and Conditions: when the Regional Health Authorities were replaced by Regional Offices of the Department of Health, medical staff continued to be employed within them on NHS terms and conditions.
In 2012 it was unclear whether or not all staff - or all new staff - of PHE would be civil servants.
Rapid Review Panel
The Rapid Review Panel is one of Public Health England’s independent science advisory bodies. In December 2013 PHE was advertising for a new Chair and 3 members of the Rapid Review Panel. Officially its role is 'to provide a prompt assessment of new and novel equipment, materials and other products or protocols that may be of value to the NHS in improving hospital infection control and reducing hospital acquired infections'.
- Duncan Selbie - chief executive
Review on fracking
In January 2014 Freedom of Information requests by Greenpeace revealed that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) had emailed what it called "lines to take" to UKOOG before the publication of a review by PHE on the potential public health effects of chemical and radioactive pollutants from fracking in the UK.
- One such line was: "We are confident that there is robust and appropriate regulation in the UK to ensure safe operations that minimise impacts to human health."
- Public Health England study – Reuters, Shale gas fracking a low risk to public health – UK review, 31 October 2013
- Department of Health Press release about the proposed formation of PHE from November 2010
- Marsland A. Public Health England (Dear Colleague Letter). London: Department of Health, 2011; 1-6
- Department of Health. Building a Public Health England People Transition Policy. London: Department of Health, 2012 (16 February); 1-29
- Department of Health. Public Health England – A new service to get people healthy (Press Release). 2010; Updated 30 November 2010; Accessed: 2012 (21 March): Press release