In August 2020, Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock announced that Public Health England (PHE) were to 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.
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
Click here to read our full recommendations: The Future of Prevention in the UK_CASSH Recommendations [PDF 312KB]