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PHE transition period to end by October

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By Beth Gault
13 July 2021

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Public Health England’s (PHE) transition period with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is to end by October, with all functions, staff and assets to be transferred to its replacement body, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), a letter to the UKHSA has said.

Plans to replace PHE were first announced in summer 2020, with the initial name for the body known as the National Institute for Health Protection.

The aim of the new body was to bring together PHE and NHS Test and Trace, protect the country from future health threats and ensure the UK can respond to pandemics quickly.

The UKHSA began operating under its new name on 1 April 2021, and since then has been in a transition period with PHE.

In a letter published today (13 July), parliamentary under secretary for the DHSC, Lord Bethell, wrote to chief executive of UKHSA Dr Jenny Harries and revealed this period would end at the end of September.  

He wrote: ‘By October, functions, staff, assets and funding will transfer from PHE and the DHSC, and the UKHSA will be fully operational.’

In a separate letter, also published today (13 July), health minister Jo Churchill wrote to the chief executive of PHE, Michael Brodie, to set out its remit until it is closed down.

‘During 2021, we will transition to the new public health arrangements,’ said Ms Churchill.

‘From April 2021, the UKHSA chief executive has leadership responsibility for health protection in England. PHE will continue to play a vital role in supporting the UKHSA chief executive and in carrying out the full range of health protection functions that PHE currently provides.

‘This includes continuing to employ staff and operate facilities deployed on health protection and the Covid-19 response until at least the end of September 2021, from which point these functions will formally transfer to UKHSA.’

She added: ‘The health priorities in this letter will remain PHE’s responsibility to deliver until other organisations in the health system become accountable for delivery as it is closed down.’

Priorities for UKHSA

In his letter to UKHSA, Lord Bethell also set out the responsibilities UKHSA will have once the transition period with PHE is over.

He said: ‘The government has established UKHSA with a global-to-local reach to protect the health of the nation from infectious diseases and other external threats to health by combining leading-edge science and analytics, insightful planning and responsive operational excellence.’

As part of this, the UKHSA will:

  • Anticipate threats to health and build the nation’s readiness, defences and health security.
  • Use surveillance to proactively detect and monitor infectious diseases and threats to health.
  • Use science and data-analytics to assess and continually monitor threats to health.
  • Take rapid, collaborative and effective actions nationally and locally to mitigate threats when they materialise.
  • Lead strong and sustainable global, national, regional and local partnerships in order to save lives, protect the UK from public health threats and reduce inequalities.

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