The decision this week to abolish Public Health England came as a bit of a bolt from the blue.
No one can say that PHE has been an unqualified success since it was introduced as part of the Andrew Lansley reforms. And of course it must take some of the blame for the fact that the UK has the third highest death rate for countries with more than a million people. Most notably, there have been problems with the nailing down the number of people who have died from Covid, which makes informed decisions tougher.
But this is just a case of passing the buck. At every stage, it was ministers taking decisions around lockdown, communications, funding etc. And these were political decisions: outsourcing test and trace, last minute changes to shielding guidance, redacting the report on ethnicity and risk the same week of the Black Lives Matter protests. These were not down to PHE.
This is just a case of passing the buck
For GPs, PHE has some influence through infection control advice/resources and responsibility for anti-smoking clinics/health checks etc. Could this be thrown into disarray and institutional memory/relationships lost with this change?
Most importantly, however, it is the latest in the Government pointing at a scapegoat that they have spent the past decade starving. Public health funding has been cut more than any other area of healthcare. If PHE wasn’t performing, ministers have only themselves to blame.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org