Position Statement: Future of Prevention in the UK
In August 2020, the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock announced that Public Health England (PHE) would be replaced due to concerns over their response to the pandemic. The National Institute for Health Protection will be established to carry out PHE's infectious disease functions, but it is unclear who will take forward their health screening, health promotion, obesity prevention programmes and their vital reformulation programmes.
This continues a trend of responsibility for nutrition being pushed from pillar to post over the last 20 years and goes some way to explaining poor performance of the UK’s current voluntary reformulation programmes. PHE lacked independence (as an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, they are ultimately answerable to Matt Hancock), hampering their ability to make strong, national recommendations, provide transparent monitoring and evaluation and implement effective policies. Strong and independent enforcement at a national level is vital for success.
Click here to read our full recommendations: The Future of Prevention in the UK_CASSH Recommendations [PDF 312KB]
Click here to read our blog in Open Access Government: Who should tackle the biggest cause of premature death when PHE is gone?
In response to the announcement, Action on Sugar and Action on Salt developed recommendations on the future of health prevention in the UK:
- PHE’s national nutrition functions should be retained alongside harms reduction and mental health
- PHE, minus functions being transferred to the National Institute for Health Protection, must remain in place until end of 2021
- Collaboratively establish purpose-driven values on prevention that all parties agree to
- Clearly assign roles to all departments to ensure values are achieved
- Funding ringfenced until at least 2030
- Freedom to speak to the evidence without influence
- Accountability to Parliament
Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, says: "The UK has an opportunity to be world-leading again, with the potential of developing and implementing mandated national nutrition improvement measures like the soft drinks industry levy to replace the current voluntary programmes. Improving nutrition is good for individuals, good for the economy and, as we have seen with the sugar levy, can even be good for business. It’s therefore imperative that whoever is responsible for tackling the biggest cause of premature death and disability in the UK when Public Health England is dissolved, prevents disease and not just treats it."
Mhairi Brown, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, says: "Health policies may be overseen by the Department of Health and Social Care, but the work of all departments impacts health. Cross-department working with clearly defined roles and responsibilities must be the way forward, built on a bedrock of purpose-driven values, developed collaboratively. Government must act decisively to ensure that the future of prevention in the UK ensures we are resilient to future pandemics and have the ability to lead longer, healthier lives."
Media Coverage is shown below: