Skip to main content

Public Health Protection

Volume 679: debated on Tuesday 1 September 2020

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.