Office for Health Promotion to replace PHE's health improvement work

New body will "build on the work" of PHE, which will be scrapped next month
Photo: GOV.UK

The Department of Health and Social Care is setting up a new Office for Health Promotion to take over Public Health England's responsibilities for improving the public's health.

It will advise ministers on health policy and work on issues such as tackling obesity, improving mental health and promoting physical activity, “building on the work of Public Health England”, DHSC said.

The office will coming into being in autumn. Its leaders have not yet been appointed.

The move will complete reforms announced by health secretary Matt Hancock to split the work of Public Health England, which were announced last August. 

When he announced plans to form the UK Health Security Agency – then known as the National Institute for Health Protection – Hancock said it would combine the "talent and science infrastructure" of Public Health England with that of NHS Test and Trace, while the government would "consult widely on how we embed health improvement more deeply across the board".

Today’s announcement confirms the split of PHE’s responsibilities, with UKHSA will lead on health security, “the Office for Health Promotion will focus on health improvement, leading at a national level to exert influence across the health and care system and beyond”.

PHE’s role is to “protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities”, according to its public mission statement.

As well as preparing for and responding to health emergencies, PHE’s responsibilities include promoting healthier lifestyles, advising government and supporting action by local government, the NHS and the public to make people healthier.

“The new office will combine Public Health England’s health improvement expertise with existing DHSC health policy capabilities, in order to promote and deliver better health to communities nationwide. By combining and enhancing these functions, the office will play a vital role in helping the public lead healthier lives,” the announcement said.

The OHP will work with national and local government, the NHS, academics, the third sector and industry to develop evidence-informed policies.

Hancock said establishing the new body would “bring health promotion into the heart of government".

“Prevention is better than cure. By putting in place innovative prevention measures, we can help everyone to live longer, healthier lives as we ease back to normality, and relieve pressures from our NHS,” he said.

Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the office would help deliver an “evidence-informed and collaborative approach to health promotion” and to support the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The non-direct harms of Covid on the public’s health will not be trivial,” he said.

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