Covid-19: Matt Hancock reveals plans for new National Institute for Health Protection

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced Public Health England (PHE) will be replaced by a new organisation that will concentrate on preparing for situations such as pandemics.

The new organisation will be run by Baroness Dido Harding, who is in charge of the NHS Test and Trace in England, she will be interim chief of the new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP).

“The world has not seen a pandemic on this scale in modern times. And while we have some of the best public health science in the world, including of course, the world’s leading vaccine candidate and the world’s only scientifically proven treatment for COVID-19, we did not go into this crisis with the capacity for a response to a once-in-a-century scale event,” he said.

The new organisation will begin work immediately and will help combine PHE and NHS Test and Trace.

 “Our nation’s public health experts have delivered incredible work during this pandemic,” he said.

The Health Secretary said the institute will be modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.

“The National Institute for Health Protection will have a single and relentless mission: protecting people from external threats to this country’s health. It will combine our world-class talent and science infrastructure with the growing response capability of NHS Test and Trace and the sophisticated analytical capability we are building in the Joint Biosecurity Centre,” he said. 

PHE was set up 2013 under former health secretary Jeremy Hunt – with duties including preparing and responding to health-related emergencies such as pandemics.

PHE employs over 5,000 full-time staff, made up mostly of scientists, researchers and public health professionals.

“The research, especially from Public Health England, has been some of the best that’s been done into this novel disease, about which we of course knew nothing, just a few short months ago,” he added.