Unite the Union has stated that Public Health England (PHE) is being used as a scapegoat for the government’s Covid-19 failings.

Last week, the Government announced that PHE would be scrapped, and replaced by a new body designed specifically to deal with pandemics.

The union maintains that PHE and its dedicated staff are being lined up as ‘the fall guy’ for ministers’ bungling over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the lead union for employees at PHE, Unite are clear that instead of merging PHE into a new body charged with preventing future pandemics, PHE should continue in its present role – and the money cut from its budget by the government should be restored.

There should be proper consultations with the unions about the future of PHE, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. Unite strongly disputes media reports that the unions were consulted over the Government’s plans.

A statement from Unite:

“In their desperation to find anyone or any organisation to blame for their own failings, Boris Johnson and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock are lining up the PHE and its staff to be the fall guy.

We think that the underlying agenda here is the future privatisation of PHE’s national infection service – the Tory government is obsessed with NHS privatisation which has been shown to be highly flawed and not a good use of taxpayers’ money.

We are calling for PHE to continue in its present role and allowed to do its vital work, rather than spend huge amounts of time, effort and money reorganising England’s public health structures in the middle of a global pandemic.

We are also calling for the swingeing cuts to its budget over recent years restored. The lack of consultation is both appalling and insulting.

PHE needs to have the resources to do the job it is designed to do, which is protecting the public health of the people in England, without inappropriate buck-passing political interference.”

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