Public Health England must not shoulder the blame for wider Government decisions, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Sunday 16 August 2020

Responding to news that Public Health England is set to be replaced with a specialist pandemic unit, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of BMA UK Council said: “We already have public health expertise in this country which is of the highest quality but despite the hard work of our colleagues in the last six months, substantial budget cuts and fragmentation of these services over years have hampered the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We must absolutely not allow PHE and its staff to shoulder the blame for wider failings and Government decisions.

“Public Health England should be part of a fully-integrated Public Health and NHS both locally and nationally. We also believe that Public Health doctors must be able to voice their views and policies independently in the interests of the public’s health and without ministerial constraints.

“With more than 1,000 new UK cases of Covid-19 being recorded for the fifth day in a row, we must seriously question whether now is the right time for undertaking such a seemingly major restructure and detract from the very immediate need to respond to the pandemic.”

Dr Peter English, chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said: “Any reforms must remove the existing barriers, which have prevented Public Health professionals from doing their job at the scale required to completely suppress the spread of Covid-19 and prevent a second wave of infection. It is now clear that the way forward is to provide Public Health experts both locally and centrally with the necessary resources to do this effectively. Meanwhile, there must also be assurances that their work in other areas, such as cancer screening, obesity, substance misuse and child poverty, are not completely deprioritised in focusing on the pandemic response.”

Dr Nagpaul added: “The BMA strongly believes that the nation’s Public Health medicine service should be truly public, completely independent of political influence. Further, its work must not be outsourced to private companies which has during the pandemic squandered millions of pounds into piecemeal initiatives, many of which have not been delivered. It must be able to operate with full transparency in order to advise Government, inform the public and do its work which is so vital to the health of the nation.

“We will seek further details, as such a significant restructure would have far-reaching implications for our dedicated public health colleagues and the health and wellbeing of the public at large.”

Notes to editors

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