Coronavirus: Health Secretary to replace Public Health England with specialist pandemic unit, says report

Public Health England (PHE) is set to scrapped and replaced with a unit that will specifically deal with pandemics, it has been reported.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is set to announce the move later this week, and will merge the NHS Test and Trace scheme with the work done by PHE on the coronavirus response, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The overhaul comes after repeated reports that ministers have been frustrated and unhappy with the way PHE, which was created by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2013, has dealt with the coronavirus crisis.

The government adopted a new way of counting daily deaths from COVID-19 after concerns were raised that the method used by PHE officials overstated them.

Responding to the Sunday Telegraph report, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Public Health England have played an integral role in our national response to this unprecedented global pandemic.

“We have always been clear that we must learn the right lessons from this crisis to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position, both as we continue to deal with COVID-19 and to respond to any future public health threat.”

The new body will be called the Institute for Health Protection and will become “effective” next month, but will not be fully complete until the spring, the paper said.

It is said to be based on a similar model in Germany, which used an independent agency to take control of the country’s response to the pandemic.

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