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Public Health England

As newspapers and websites report that Public Health England may be replaced by a ‘National Institute for Health Protection’, the First 1001 Days Movement calls on Government to provide clarity about the future of Public Health England’s role in giving babies the best start in life. Public Health England plays a vital role in protecting and improving the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reducing health inequalities. This goes far beyond its role in tackling the pandemic.

Public Health England (PHE) supports Local Authorities and the NHS to improve the physical and emotional wellbeing of babies, toddlers and their parents through the critically important first 1001 days of life. Its role includes defining the Healthy Child Programme, overseeing delivery of the Family Nurse Partnership, and providing guidance and support to health visitors and other important services for families. It also collects and collates data about outcomes and service provision which is vital in designing, delivering and improving local services. Prior to the pandemic, work had begun on an important update to the Healthy Child Programme, which defines the support that all children in England should receive. During the pandemic, PHE has provided essential advice and guidance to Local Authorities and their health visiting services.

During any restructure of Public Health England, we urge the Government to think carefully about national oversight of, and support for, public health services for babies and their families. Government must avoid taking rapid action to change PHE’s role and structure without full consultation and understanding the consequences of this action, particularly at this time when local services are depleted and struggling with the effects of the pandemic. It may be that there are opportunities, through reflection and revision of PHE’s role, to strengthen our national efforts to give babies the best start in life. But these opportunities will only be identified and realised through a thoughtful restructure, done in partnership with internal and external stakeholders, and with the best interests of babies and their family at heart. Until that can happen, Public Health England must have Government’s full support to deliver its important role. Sufficient investment in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review will be essential to enable Public Health England, and the Local Authorities and NHS providers it supports, to work effectively for children and their families in the first 1001 days and beyond.

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