The government’s desire to pass the buck could put more lives in danger

The decision to scrap Public Health England in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed 65,000 British lives is cynical and wrong. Few will be persuaded by the attempts of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to portray it as turning a crisis into an opportunity.

The opportunity here is purportedly to better serve the public as the country looks ahead to a significant coronavirus resurgence and a grim winter. In reality, it looks more like the chance to shift the blame for the government’s failures ahead of an inquiry and create the impression that it has fixed any problems that might need solving. As the head of the King’s Fund thinktank noted, PHE seems to have been found guilty without a trial. The move also encapsulates No 10’s fondness for rushing through ideas without consultation or proper scrutiny, and for creating centralised institutions that boost the private sector and are handed over to chums.

It is nonsense to suggest that this hasty reconfiguration will protect the public. Instead, it will cost money, time and attention that is desperately needed to deal with the pandemic, while demoralising staff who are currently employed in life-saving work, and in many cases exhausted by the demands of this crisis. They are unlikely to be impressed by Mr Hancock’s fulsome tribute to them.

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The Guardian Editorial – August 18, 2020.

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