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Unions and health professionals condemn plans to abolish Public Health England

UNIONS and health professionals have condemned the government’s abolition of Public Health England (PHE) to replace it with an NHS management body.

The government’s decision followed PHE criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.

Eleven trade unions and professional groups with members in the NHS have condemned the decision, and have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock today  expressing “alarm.”

The government is replacing PHE with a “National Institute for Health Protection.”

Unions warn that the institute has been created without consultation and with no clear plans for the future of the NHS. It raises the risk of further private-sector encroachment on the service.           

The letter reads: “We urge you to ensure that we have an adequately resourced national public health system with sufficient capacity, resilience and access to data, research and analysis over the long term to address all domains of public health effectively.

“We seek a binding commitment to the independence of the National Institute for Health Protection and public health professionals and their vital ability to speak truth to power and to the public at a national, regional and local level.”

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “We are in the middle of a pandemic which is having a devastating effect on the economy and the nation’s health and instead of dealing with it the government is abolishing the very body responsible for public health.”

The Royal College of Nursing’s Susan Masters said: “The expertise and professionalism within the organisations being brought together are outstanding in their own right and of critical national importance, especially at this time.

“It is vital that the government engages appropriately and plans effectively to ensure staff are supported and empowered, now and in the future.”

Unite national officer Jackie Williams said: “Serious questions need to be asked about the political decisions behind why PHE has been axed in this disgraceful fashion.”

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The decision to abolish PHE and set up the National Institute for Health Protection without consulting unions and considering the staff is another reckless move by a dangerously incompetent government.”

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