31 March 2021
A new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) for public health and disease security has been announced by the Government and will be formally in place from April.
Headed by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries, the new organisation will bring together Public Health England (PHE), NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to continue to tackle Covid-19 as well as protect the population from future health threats.
Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said it was time to build on the foundations of PHE, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to create “a dedicated mission driven national institution for health security, that brings together all these capabilities” to respond to pandemics, communicable disease and external threats such as bioterrorism.
He said the UKHSA will be an essential partner leading on health security for the whole of the UK, “collaborating with devolved administrations and the public health agencies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and crucially, working in partnership with directors of public health, and our partners in local government.”
He said Dr Jenny Harries has local, regional and national experience, and is perfectly placed to help the organisation learn lessons from the Covid-19 response, and keep the country in a state of readiness to respond to infectious diseases and other external health threats.
Plans to replace PHE with a new health protection body were first announced in Summer 2020, when Baroness Dido Harding was appointed to lead what was initially referred to as The National Institute for Health Protection, in an interim role. In August 2020, Matt Hancock claimed that creating the new organisation would “support a culture of collaboration and change, shunning silos and unnecessary bureaucracy”.
More detail is expected in the coming days about how health promotion activities, such as on obesity and smoking, will be managed in the future.