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Public Health England: Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

I wish to inform the House of the publication of Public Health England’s annual report and accounts for the financial year 2019-20. A copy of the annual report and accounts 2019-20 (“the Report”) has been laid before both Houses.

Public Health England (PHE) is an Executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, providing the evidence, support and advice needed locally, nationally and internationally. PHE is responsible for four critical functions: protecting the public’s health; improving the public’s health, improving population health; and supporting the capacity and capability of the public health system in England.

The report sets out the activity, performance and expenditure of PHE for key areas of its business for 2019-2020 financial year and reflects the position as at 31 March 2020. The report is based on activity in the 2019-20 financial year and notes that some performance in the final quarter was impacted because PHE rigorously reprioritised to free up significant internal resource for the covid-19 response.

As referenced in the report, on 18 August 2020, the Government announced the establishment of a new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP), which will bring together the additional testing capacity at scale of NHS test and trace, the joint biosecurity centre intelligence and analytical capability with the public health science and health protection expertise of PHE. NIHP will be formally and fully established in 2021.

NHS test and trace and PHE put in place integrated arrangements on the covid-19 response and created a joint situational awareness team to provide analysis and insight into the progression of the virus, under single leadership.

Until further formal changes are made, PHE continues to operate and deliver its core functions in line with its framework agreement and continues to be held to account for delivery against the priorities set by Government in the annual strategic remit and priorities letter and agreed business plans through formal quarterly accountability meetings. PHE’s governance boards and groups and PHE’s advisory board also continue to operate. There will be a continued focus on responding to covid-19, now and throughout the winter. Health improvement, preventing ill health and reducing inequalities will also remain priorities for PHE, prior to full transition to new arrangements.

Work is underway to determine the right future arrangements for PHE’s vital non-health protection functions, including health improvement responsibilities, and we will engage widely on proposals before implementing new arrangements in 2021.