The abolition of Public Health England (PHE) puts at risk staff who specialize in tackling alcohol abuse, obesity and smoking, according public health experts.
Earlier this week, U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that PHE was being scrapped and merged into a new National Institute for Health Protection alongside National Health Service Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
PHE had come under fire for its performance in the coronavirus crisis, but critics suspect government officials view the agency as a convenient scapegoat for flawed decisionmaking in the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis.
The timing is also controversial. “It’s an incredibly stupid move,” a health official told The Economist. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic.”
PHE was created in 2013 with responsibilities including preparing and responding to health-related emergencies, such as pandemics. It currently employs around 5,500 full-time staff made up mostly of scientists, researchers and public health professionals.
In the nicotine business, PHE is best known for its 2015 assertion that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking. The agency has been credit with Britain’s comparatively pragmatic vapor policies and progressive attitude toward tobacco harm reduction.