What was Public Health England?
PHE was established in April 2013 as part of the controversial health reforms started by Lord Lansley, when he was the health secretary. As an “executive agency” of the Department of Health and Social Care it was ultimately under the direct control of ministers.
Its aim was to “protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities”, with a wide range of responsibilities including supporting screening and immunisation programmes and encouraging the public to lead healthier lifestyles, as well as preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.
In 2018-19 it cost taxpayers £287 million, and its supporters have argued that it has faced “years of underfunding” while trying to tackle a particularly wide remit.
What is replacing it?
The new National Institute for Health Protection announced yesterday by Matt Hancock will encompass PHE, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). It will be led by Baroness Harding.
Mr Hancock says that the new agency, which will also report directly to ministers, will “have a single and relentless mission: protecting people from external threats to this country’s health”. Those include “biological weapons, pandemics and of course infectious diseases of all kinds”.
Kat Lay – The Times – August 18, 2020.