Public Health Protection

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons at on 1 September 2020.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

What steps his Department is taking to improve public health protection.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

On 18 August, I announced the establishment of a brand-new organisation to provide a world-leading approach to public health protection and resilience, the National Institute for Health Protection. It will bring together the health protection expertise of Public Health England, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and NHS Test and Trace under unified leadership and will start work immediately so as to boost the UK’s ability to deal with covid-19.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Everyone accepts that my right hon. Friend’s priority at the moment is fighting the invisible enemy, but with winter approaching many people will be worried about the threat of flu, so will he tell the House if there are any special arrangements for those people who want the vaccine? Does he have any further news about the reopening of all GP surgeries?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The flu vaccination programme this year will be the biggest in history. As I was going to say in my statement—I will say it now for my hon. Friend—we will be putting before the House proposals to expand the number of NHS qualified clinicians who can administer vaccinations, whether for the flu programme, which is coming, or for a covid vaccination programme, should a covid vaccine come out.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

The NHS Confederation, the British Medical Association, the British Dental Association, NHS Providers, the Royal Society for Public Health and many health charities have expressed real doubts about the Secretary of State’s plans for Public Health England. It is evident that, come what may, he will have his own organisation for tackling disease and that, come what may, he will pick which of his pals he wants to lead it, but he seems to have ignored the fact that Public Health England also leads crucial work on tackling drug and alcohol misuse, reducing smoking, promoting sexual health and much more. Six weeks ago, obesity was the Prime Minister’s priority, and now the Health Secretary wants to cut the organisation that leads our fight against it. Will he end the confusion today by committing to the remaining functions of Public Health England continuing to be led by a dedicated national organisation?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The hon. Gentleman obviously did not read the announcement, because part of the purpose of having a dedicated national institute for health protection is also to ensure that the ill health prevention agenda—the health improvement agenda—is embedded in the health system, including the NHS. This is a good day to discuss this, because just this morning the NHS set out the next steps in its diabetes prevention and remission programme. Embedding the anti-obesity drive right across the health system, including the NHS, is a critical part of its future, and we are consulting widely on making sure we have the right and best organisational structure to deliver that.