ACB responds to launch of new National Institute for Health Protection

Comment on behalf of the ACB by Professor Neil Anderson and Dr Robert Shorten, Chair, Microbiology Professional Committee

The following comment was issued to the Press via the Science Media Centre in response to Matt Hancock's speech launching the new NIHP:

The ACB welcomes any approach to support the public health of the nation. We would firstly like to wholeheartedly thank the many ACB members who work at Public Health England for their tireless efforts over the previous eight months and also recognise their dedicated work on essential non-COVID-19 public health issues. The work carried out by senior Clinical Scientists, who are world leaders in the field of novel and emerging pathogens, has led to the rapid development and validation of diagnostic tests for COVID-19. This has enabled the swift adoption of COVID-19 tests and ensured effective testing processes. It is regrettable that this dedicated workforce learned of the plans to replace their organisation in such a manner. However, I know that they will approach this next challenge with their usual professionalism and diligence.

We need a collective, concerted effort to tackle the next phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, and Clinical Scientists and laboratories should be at the heart of this. The proposed remit of the new National Institute for Health Protection must support the mitigation of risks around climate change and population growth, that have made outbreaks of novel and emerging pathogens more likely. It is vital that any agency with the remit to tackle this pandemic, and whatever infections follow it, has a strong scientific core. It should combine the current world-leading scientific expertise, with the resource to respond on an appropriate scale.

PHE was a scientific organisation at its heart, we hope the NIHP will build on that strong tradition. Science is led by evidence, which can change over the course of time, and will inform the best response and outcome. In addition we hope the NIHP will also support the many other aspects of public health that describe the population's health, in particular the high incidence of obesity, type II diabetes and vascular disease that have been identified as having a significant effect on outcomes from COVID-19 infection. We hope that the NIHP will work constructively across systems and with the NHS to achieve improved public health.