‘Irresponsible’ breaking up of Public Health England expected to be announced

The Canary

Plans to break up Public Health England in the middle of a pandemic are “irresponsible” and “risky”, Labour has said.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that structural reorganisation is “time consuming” and “energy sapping”.

In a series of scathing tweets, Ashworth said the government was trying to “shift the blame” when it announces plans to break up the embattled organisation later.

A story placed with the Sunday Telegraph suggests that the coronavirus (Covid-19) response work of PHE is to be merged with NHS Test and Trace to form a new Health Protection Institute, designed specifically to deal with pandemics.

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK.
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Ashworth said the NHS Test and Trace service “isn’t world beating as promised”.

It is widely expected that Tory peer Dido Harding, the former Talk Talk boss who leads the Test and Trace programme in England, will become interim head of the new organisation.

Ashworth said: “Last year ministers outlined PHE’s priorities. They didn’t mention preparing for a pandemic.

“A structural reorganisation mid-pandemic is time consuming, energy sapping. It’s risky, indeed irresponsible.

“And what an insulting way to treat hardworking staff who heard about this from a paywalled Sunday newspaper leaving them with questions and worries about their jobs.”

On Monday, PHE boss Duncan Selbie wrote to staff saying he was “sorry beyond words” that the future of the body was briefed to the media before his staff were told.

Ashworth added: “Test & Trace isn’t world beating as promised. It’s spent millions on outsourced Serco call centres and private labs when everyone advised them to put local health experts in [the] lead. Cash would be more effective if given to local public health. Serco shouldn’t receive a penny more.

“PHE has a wide range of health priorities – addiction, sexual health, obesity, children’s health, anti smoking, Antimicrobial Resistance and (of obvious increasing importance) [a] key role in supporting uptake and access to vaccinations. Who will be responsible for these priorities?

“We went into this pandemic with health inequalities widening and life expectancy going backwards for [the] poorest. Covid thrives on these inequalities, disproportionately impacting the poorest and BAME communities. A strong well funded public health sector is needed more than ever.

“Today we’ll get a structural reorganisation, an attempt at blame shifting, more corrosive privatisation.

“The shift we need is towards a local test & trace system delivering mass testing, [that] finds cases, uses local expertise to trace and supports people to isolate with security.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock is due to deliver a speech at the thinktank Policy Exchange titled The Future of Public Health.

Responding to reports that Public Health England is to be replaced, a No 10 spokesperson said on Monday: “We have always said we must learn the right lessons from the crisis and act to ensure government structures are fit to cope.

“But I would make the point that PHE [has] played an integral role in our response to this unprecedented pandemic, working on important issues such as detection, surveillance, contact tracing and testing.”

HEALTH Coronavirus Europe
(PA Graphics)

But critics said if ministers are unhappy with PHE’s performance, they have only themselves to blame as it is directly under ministerial control.

Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “It is clear that Public Health England and its dedicated staff are being lined up to be the fall guy for continual bungling by Boris Johnson and his ministers since coronavirus emerged at the beginning of the year.”

Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “There have clearly been failings in handling the Covid pandemic, but scapegoating PHE is unfair and potentially dangerous.

“A range of people and agencies are accountable for the handling of the pandemic, not just PHE.

“This feels like a crude attempt to shift blame.”

Christina Marriott, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “We question the timing of an announcement to scrap our national public health agency in the midst of a global pandemic and before any public inquiry has started, let alone reported.”

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  • Show Comments
    1. What needs breaking up are these useless NHS Trusts that are one of the main reasons there is such chaos in our NHS.
      A personal example of their ineptitude; or greedy profiteering perhaps; I will recount.

      My elderly father needed a minor operation for a skin abnormality at our local hospital (12 miles away). No problem there, as the day it was to take place did not clash with my working a weekend shift patern.
      The “see and swab” test, however, was booked on for the Saturday prior to his operation at another of the trusts hospitals 30 miles away. Which meant that I had to take a day off work, on the very week where I went back after five months furlough.
      This could have all been avoided, as we have a “see and swab” centre in our town, but as it is run by a different NHS trust it was not possible to have my father’s check carried out there.
      The reason given. “Our two trusts do not work together.”

      1. Your not alone in noticing how each Trust is a fiefdom. Across the world in Canada the same thing goes on, and small incremental moves are being made to privatize the health care system at the same time.
        The lure of all that social money is irresistable to the pirates for profit and society’s endeavour to look after ourselves is diminshed by through profit taking. No funding locally now for some services, as the desire for profit has outstripped the funds for providing that service.
        Trading profit for service is the game.
        It’s the phenom dark side of us, and a movement on the ground floor to spur an increased decadence seeking personnal gain.
        Too bad for the survival of common sense, and a sense for the greater good. No wonder the fringe of Scotland Wales, Northern Island can’f leave the Union fast enough.
        There is no greater good envisoned any longer, just access to more of the greater goods wealth without a valid reason. I’ve never seen their reasoning come true.
        The greater selfishness has arrived?
        Unite’s Jackie Williams has the politic summed up well.

    2. One of Maggie’s justifications for the privatisation of the Ukanian landscape was to counter a sense of the bureaucratic run around, which was considered to be rampant in our state run enterprises and contributed to increased costs alongside ineffective provision of service. That has proved to be nonsense on so many levels especially when it comes to costs and efficiency. It’s also difficult to imagine that the bureaucracy has diminished since that has been the big growth area in the NHS since the mid-1980s. Still if the myth of an ‘oven ready Brexit’ got him and his crew into government I do not expect much of an out cry from the Roly-Poly Forelock-Tuggers of UKania

    3. Killer Johnson has to have someone to blame for 75,000 deaths & HE (as well as scientists) is the chosen location. Get rid of the personnel & they can’t stand up for themselves.
      Does anyone realise that under cover of the deliberate Tory CV19 catastrophe, the UK is being systematically reorganised to favour the wealthy who run the Tories ?

      I know someone who asked his GP for a sebaceous cyst to be removed from the back of his hand.
      Private only now was the reply -the surgery (& 900 others) they were sitting in was owned by Branson, btw. The cyst was removed by a Spanish bloke at a private ‘hospital’ for £600, who did other ops then flew back to Spain the following week…..any problems go to A&E he said.

    4. The public only believe that the Tories actually won a “landslide victory” last December because the Tory liars, the compliant BBC and the crooked right wing media keep on insisting that they won. In reality it makes no sense at all and we should stop buying into the “borrowed votes” lie just as we should have realized after the exam grade scandal that Johnsons hype about ‘levelling up’ is exposed as standard Tory ‘Decimating Down!’ The voting result was so completely illogical and totally unfathomable that I am still unable to accept the Tories could possibly have won the Covert2019 Rigged Election. We are still gathering evidence to force an investigation, so join the resistance, visit the Discussion Forum on Craig Murray’s blog that deals with the Elections Aftermath and please sign the Petition calling for an immediate investigation. Our Electoral Commission is powerless to protect our vote: A Watchdog that cannot watch is just a dog! Sign this Petition to “Rescue our Watchdog:” https://tinyurl.com/w4u9dwm

      No, it is not too late to do anything about it, but time is limited and the situation is getting worse by the day with more reckless decisions being made without parliamentary scrutiny or democratic intervention. Axing Public Health England wasn’t even in the last Tory manifesto, but other horrendous changes were and they will be swiftly blasted through while we are deliberately distracted over the minutia of local lockdown restrictions and holiday venue options. After crash-out Brexit, with no recourse to the EU Court, Johnson will move swiftly to solidify full Tory dictatorship. Dismantling PHE will dodge accountability for the totally shambolic Tory handling of Covid and the massive death toll. Dido Harding’s last assignment was a huge failure with Track and Trace, but she will careen the NHS into more disaster. I bet this was all “approved” by Cummings; an untendered contract with Mc.Kinsey to scavenge personal data should seriously alarm us all, especially Carole Cadwalladr who knows exactly how that data can be manipulated.

      In a recent Article printed in the Civil Service World the most disturbing information is revealed, “Under the deal, McKinsey is authorised to process personal data for test and trace personnel, contractors, customers, users and suppliers, for seven years after the work is completed. The data includes people’s names and addresses, driving licence details, pay, biometric data, next of kin contacts and medical conditions. Once the work is finished, McKinsey will own all concepts, tools and databases and other outputs it has generated. It has agreed to give DHSC a worldwide, royalty-free licence to use and copy any tools developed through the work.” Who will take charge of this? None other than Dido Harding who headed up Talk-Talk and oversaw a massive breach of their customer’s personal data! This accomplishes two major Tory goals, not just scavenging data the Tories have no legitimate need of, but also weakening and debilitating the NHS ready for the US style privatization Harding’s husband has long championed.

      Do you ever wonder why Dominic Cummings has such a vice hold on the PM? I believe that his VICS Voter Intention Collection System was the crucial key to informing the Tories exactly which constituencies they needed to target with stolen postal votes and by exactly how many votes to avoid suspicion. Scavenged personal data was also used to target the most persuadable with weapons grade PsyOps. He promised the Tories 80 seats and he delivered exactly as calculated. I think he is realistic enough to have anticipated that Boris Johnson would betray him, so he will have found a way to distance himself from any criminality if he has to pull the plug. He holds all the information and he can blackmail the PM to stay in post. This was his victory, but if at any point he is removed and can no longer control the PM he might well expose the Tory theft of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election and bring down the Government. With such explosive evidence Boris Johnson cannot afford to fire Cummings!

      Where are the opposition MP raving about this latest dangerous assault on our NHS? Keir Starmer, the Captain of Capitulation, is too busy fighting the fabricated smears that were used by the Tories to legitimize their invalid ‘landslide victory’ in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. Starmer is focused on purging the Labour Party of the progressive Left as he think it might make him more electable, but if he seriously thinks that there will be a chance to vote the Tories out in five years time he is completely delusional. The Tories already have the majority they need to change that date or to hold an even more heavily rigged election next time; that is what ‘Elective Dictatorship’ is all about. Am I scare mongering? All of the classic markers of dictatorship are being put in place right now. Belarus has had their dictator in place for 26 years; if we do not act now it will take decades to before we are able to restore democracy. Start by demanding the immediate removal of the PM’s puppet master. Cummings is the grenade@oust him and you pull the pin!

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