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HomePoliticsMatt Hancock plans to axe Public Health England after poor handling of pandemic

Matt Hancock plans to axe Public Health England after poor handling of pandemic

Matt Hancock plans to axe Public Health England after poor handling of pandemic

THE health quango blamed for the poor handling of the pandemic will be scrapped next month, it was revealed.

Matt Hancock has decided that Public Health England will be wound up after a string of failures.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has decided that Public Health England will be wound up after a string of failures

The Health Secretary has ordered a major shake-up following heavy criticism of failure to prepare for the spread of coronavirus with stocks of protective gear and testing equipment.

Its officials have been accused of spending too much time lecturing the public on its eating and drinking habits instead of preparing to protect against a looming pandemic.

Mr Hancock will this week announce a merger of PHE with NHS Test and Trace – to form a new body called the National Institute for Health Protection.

It will be modelled Robert Koch Institute.

Baroness Dido Harding, former boss of TalkTalk and now heads up NHS Test and Trace, is hot favourite to win the role.

A senior minister said: “We want to bring together the science and the scale in one new body so we can do all we can to stop a second coronavirus spike this autumn.

“The National Institute for Health Protection’s goal will be simple: to ensure that Britain is one of the best equipped countries in the world to fight the pandemic.”

A new chief executive – who will be announced soon – will report to both Mr Hancock and the government’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance.

It will give ministers direct control over its future response to pandemics threats.

Mr Hancock wants a high-flyer with experience in the health field and the private sector to run the new body.

The successful candidate will have tens of thousands of staff, bringing together science expertise with the Test and Trace system.

The unprecedented challenge of the pandemic has exposed PHE’s weaknesses.

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Mr Hancock, who has been working on the overhaul for three months, had to take control of the testing strategy from PHE in March to scale up the numbers quickly.

One problem is that PHE has been spread too thinly during the full pandemic and was seen to spend too much time trying to prevent ill health and lecture the public on healthy living than preventing spread of disease.

There has also been a blame game in Whitehall, with health officials furious with PHE for counting all deaths from Covid-19, rather than just those within the first 28 days of contracting the virus, as in Scotland.

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