A new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) has been created to lead the response to the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the coming winter.
From today the body will bring together Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, as well as the analytical capability of the Joint Biosecurity Centre under a single leadership team, which the Department of Health and Social Care described as the “first step towards becoming a single organisation, focused on tackling COVID-19 and protecting the nation’s health”.
The NIHP’s structure will be detailed over the coming weeks and months with the intention of having it fully established by spring next year.
Health & Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, (pictured) said: “To give ourselves the best chance of beating this virus once and for all – and of spotting and being ready to respond to other health threats, now and in the future, we are creating a brand new organisation to provide a new approach to public health protection and resilience.
“The National Institute for Health Protection will bring together the expertise of PHE with the enormous response capabilities of NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to put us in the best possible position for the next stage of the fight against COVID-19 and for the long-term.”
The organisation, which follows criticism of Public Health England’s handling of the COVID-19 response, will be led on an interim basis by Baroness Dido Harding.
Its responsibilities will include:
NIHP Local Health Protection Teams to deal with infections and other threats;
Support and resources for local authorities to manage local outbreaks;
The COVID-19 Testing Programme;
The Joint Biosecurity Centre;
Emergency response and preparedness to deal with the most severe incidents at national and local level;
Research and reference laboratories and associated services;
Specialist epidemiology and surveillance of all infectious diseases;
The Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards;
Global health security; and
Providing specialist scientific advice on immunisation and countermeasures.