Serious Concerns about Plans to Reorganise the Public Health System

Cllr Alan Hall has joined public health professionals, campaigners and charities in signing a joint statement to the Government on Public Health Reorganisation.

The statement is endorsed by a wide range of leading health organisations, including the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA, the SPECTRUM public health research collaboration, the Smokefree Action Coalition and the Richmond Group of health and care charities. The statement warns that:

“Reorganisation risks fragmentation across different risk factors and between health protection and health improvement. Organisational change is difficult and can be damaging at the best of times and these are not the best of times. A seamless transition from the current to the new system is essential.”

Professor Maggie Rae, President of the Faculty of Public Health said:

“Reorganisation of Public Health England (PHE) brings with it a real risk that some of the critical functions of PHE will be ignored. The pandemic has shone the light on the health inequalities that exist in the country and it is clear that those with the poorest health have been hit hardest. Scaling up, not down, the health improvement functions of PHE is a prerequisite if the Government is to deliver on its commitments to ‘level up’ society; increase disability-free life years significantly, while reducing inequalities; to improve mental health; increase physical activity; reduce obesity and alcohol harm; and to end smoking. Ensuring there is adequate funding, a robust infrastructure and sufficient public health expertise to deliver at national, regional and local level, is fundamental.”

A letter has been published in the British Medical Journal, the full text is here:

Dear Editor

Over 70 organisations and alliances committed to improving health and reducing inequalities have endorsed a joint statement which we have sent to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health and the interim leadership of Public Health England (PHE). This sets out the principles we all agree must underpin the reorganisation of the health improvement and wider functions of PHE.
We are deeply concerned that the Government’s plans for the reorganisation of health protection in the UK currently pay insufficient attention to the vital health improvement and other wider functions of Public Health England (PHE).

Chronic non-communicable diseases are still, and will remain, responsible for the overwhelming burden of preventable death and disease in this country. The communities hit hardest by COVID-19 are those suffering most from inequalities in health and wellbeing. It is a false choice to neglect vital health improvement measures, such as those that target smoking, obesity, alcohol and mental health, in order to fight COVID-19.

Reorganisation is difficult at the best of times and these are not the best of times. Avoiding fragmentation and ensuring seamless transition from the current to any new system is essential.
At this time of global pandemic and recession, health improvement is not a ‘nice to have’ but an essential component of a successful response to the challenges we face.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Nicholas S Hopkinson
Respiratory Specialist, Imperial College London, Chair of Action on Smoking and Health, on behalf of the Smokefree Action Coalition
Imperial College, London SW7

Professor Maggie Rae
President of the Faculty of Public Health

Professor Linda Bauld
Chair of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh and Director of public health research consortium SPECTRUM

Nicola Close
Chief Executive, the Association of Directors of Public Health, on behalf of the Public Health Network

Neil Tester
Director, The Richmond Group of Health and Care Charities

Sir Ian Gilmore
Director, Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, and Chairman, Alcohol Health Alliance UK

Caroline Cerny
Obesity Health Alliance Lead

Dr Peter English
BMA public health medicine committee chair

and others to view the full statement see here

Cllr Alan Hall has campaigned for better public health and an end to cuts to public health budgets for many years see press comments here and here

Leave a Reply