September2 2020 - Page 4

NEWS ROUND-UP Government scraps Public Health England The government is abolishing Public Health England (PHE), it has announced. A new organisation, The National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP), will instead bring together PHE and NHS Test and Trace and focus on a ‘rigorous science-led approach to public health protection’. Although the new body is starting work immediately it will not be formalised until next spring in order to ‘minimise disruption’, the government says. While NIHP’s responsibilities will cover the COVID-19 testing programme, emergency response and preparedness and surveillance of infectious diseases, it remains unclear what arrangements will be made for PHE’s other functions, including the Alcohol, Drugs & Tobacco part of its Health and NORTHERN IRELAND is to launch a ‘full consultation’ on MUP, health minister Robin Swann has announced. The decision follows a review of its alcohol and drug strategy carried out last year. Northern Ireland’s new substance use strategy, Making life better – preventing harm and empowering recovery will be issued for consultation this autumn, with the MUP consultation to follow within a year. Although the proportion of adults in Northern Ireland drinking above the recommended guidelines fell from 26 per cent to 20 per cent between 2010-11 and 2017-18, alcoholrelated deaths have continued to rise while hospital admissions increased from just over 9,500 in 2008-09 to more than 11,500 in 2016-17. MUP has already been introduced in Scotland and Wales. ‘The impact of alcohol misuse is being felt by too many families and communities across Northern Ireland on a daily basis,’ said Mr Swann. ‘We need to consider fully every option available to us to reduce this blight on our society. I have been closely following the Scottish Government introduction of minimum unit pricing on alcohol since 2018 and have been noting with interest the early positive evaluation reports.’ The announcement was a ‘positive step forward’, said chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. Wellbeing Directorate. In a speech to the Policy Exchange health secretary Matt Hancock said that PHE’s prevention and health improvement agenda would be ‘embedded right across government’, with a consultation to follow. ‘I’ll be saying more on this over the coming weeks,’ he stated. DHSC will be organising an external stakeholder advisory group to support this and ‘provide expert advice from leading thinkers in public health, health care and local government’, the government says. Interim executive chair of the new organisation will be Baroness Dido Harding, while the interim chief executive officer of PHE will be Michael Brodie, currently CEO of NHS Business Services Authority. More than 80 health organisations including the Alcohol Health Alliance, Alcohol Change UK, Humankind and Turning Northern Ireland to consult on minimum pricing '‘The impact of alcohol misuse is being felt by too many families and communities.' ROBIN SWANN Point have issued a statement in the BMJ outlining their fears over PHE’s abolition. ‘As organisations committed to improving health and reducing inequalities, we are deeply concerned that the government’s plans for the reorganisation of health protection in the UK pay insufficient attention to the vital health improvement and other wider functions of Public Health England,’ it states. While the establishment of the stakeholder advisory group was a ‘welcome step’, reorganisation of PHE’s health protection functions risked fragmentation, it warns, and calls on the government to reverse public health budget cuts. ‘Organisational change is difficult and can be damaging at the best of times – and these are not the best of times.’ Full statement at https://smokefreeaction.org.uk/ phehealthimprov/ Interim executive chair of the new organisation will be Baroness Dido Harding. Calorie labels for alcohol? THE GOVERNMENT will launch a consultation on plans to provide calorie labelling for alcohol, it has announced. The consultation forms part of the government’s obesity strategy designed to ‘beat coronavirus and protect the NHS’. Around 80 per cent of people are unaware of the calorie content of alcoholic drinks, the government says, with alcohol consumption estimated to account for almost 10 per cent of calorie intake for those who drink. Around 3.4m people are consuming an additional day’s worth of calories per week, it adds. ‘When the calorie equivalent of a large glass of white wine is the same as a slice of pizza or a cocktail is the equivalent of a cheeseburger, it is clear why alcohol products should be included in the government’s plans to tackle the obesity crisis,’ said chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘Alcohol is a factor in more than 200 health conditions and is the leading risk factor of death among 15-49 year olds in England. Labelling on all alcohol products with prominent health warnings, low risk drinking guidelines and information on ingredients, nutrition and calories would help equip the public with the knowledge they need to make healthier decisions about what and how much they drink.’ 4 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • SEPTEMBER 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM