It is easy to see why some see the shake-up as government revenge and pre-emptive strike

It is easy to see why some see the shake-up as government revenge and pre-emptive strike

There is nothing in this proposal that would enable him in my mind to do anything that he cant already do with his existing powers. That was Andrew Lansley, the last health secretary to push through a controversial shake-up of public health in 2012, on his successor Matt Hancocks justification for abolishing Public Health England.
He is not the only one questioning the logic, purpose, timing and potential effects of PHE being merged via a reorganisation in the midst of the coronavirus crisis into the new National Institute for Health Protection alongside NHS test and trace and the joint biosecurity centre. It is unusual for a government initiative on health to attract such a wide range of scepticism and criticism, from ex-Conservative MPs, senior doctors, scientists, public health experts and thinktank bosses.
But what the NHS Confederation dubbed an exercise in shifting deckchairs yielded that consensus of concern. Dr Sarah Wollaston, until December the Tory chair of the Commons health select committee, said that seeking to scapegoat them [PHE] is extraordinary after cutting public health funding and excluding local directors of public health from decision-making on Covid. The move seems rushed, poorly timed and potentially part of an emerging Covid-19 blame game.
It is easy to see why some critics see the shake-up as both the governments revenge on PHE for all the negative publicity early on in the pandemic around the inability to test more than 2,000 swab samples a day and the abandonment of contact tracing on 12 March, and as a pre-emptive strike on the agencys reputation ahead of a public inquiry even Boris Johnson agrees is coming. The former was a consequence of PHEs limited laboratory capacity, as both Englands chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, and the government minister James Brokenshire have acknowledged, while it was ministers, not PHE, who ordered contact tracing to stop.

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