A UK-wide public health and disease security organisation to replace Public Health England has launched today.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) brings together PHE, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to protect the population from future health threats, as well as continuing to tackle Covid-19.
It will prioritise tackling the pandemic and help to develop vaccines against emerging variants of Covid-19.
In the long term, it will use the facilities generated for Covid to fight other health threats and infectious diseases.
PHE’s health improvement and ‘healthcare public health functions’ will be transferred to the Office for Health and Improvement and Disparities (OHID), NHSE/I and NHS Digital.
The OHID, led by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, will focus on health inequalities in the UK and address the top risk factors for poor health, such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
New deputy chief medical officer Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy will co-lead the body with Department of Health and Social Care director general for public health, Jonathan Marron to provide guidance to the Government on clinical and public health issues.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the OHID will be ‘the driving force across government, supported by communities, academics, industry and employers, to level up the health of our nation, which will reduce the pressure on our NHS and care services’.
It was first announced in March and is headed by former deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries.
Dr Harries said: ‘I am immensely proud to have been asked to take on the challenge of protecting the nation by leading the UKHSA, building on the experiences and lessons learned in public health protection over the last decade.
‘UKHSA combines world-leading scientists, clinicians and operational expertise, with cutting-edge technologies and data science to lead health protection locally, nationally and globally.’
Plans to replace PHE with a new health protection body were first announced in summer 2020.