Public Health England

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Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom that began operating on 1 April 2013. PHE's formation came as a result of reorganisation of the National Health Service (NHS) in England outlined in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 when it took on the role of the Health Protection Agency, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse and a number of other health bodies.[1]


In August 2017, PHE announced plans to move its operations to a site in Harlow, Essex previously owned by GlaxoSmithKline. Once converted, the Harlow site would house 2,750 PHE staff from its current facilities at Porton Down in Wiltshire, Colindale in north London, and from its central London headquarters. [2] However, PHE's reorganisation – imposed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in August 2020 – has put its move to Harlow in doubt.[3]


In August 2020, it was revealed by The Telegraph that Public Health England is to be "scrapped" and replaced by a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection,[4] which will combine PHE Porton, the NHS Test and Trace operation and the Joint Biosecurity Centre in response to the coronavirus pandemic.[5]


Events Participated in

Exercise Cygnus18 October 201620 October 2016Simulation exercise to estimate the impact of a hypothetical H2N2 influenza pandemic in the UK. One of the purposes of the scenario prepared by experts from Imperial College London was to overcome Whitehall skepticism of their earlier absolutely wrong epidemic forecasting, and to drill politicians to make certain prepared responses in case of an emergency. Held October 2016.
Toxic Dagger20 February 201812 March 2018Salisbury
The largest chemical warfare exercise in the UK, coinciding with the Skripal Affair. Held February 2018.


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Senior spy appointed to lead UK’s joint biosecurity centreArticle5 June 2020Helen Warrell
Sarah Neville
Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, says: “The virus is not worried that you’re tracking its progress, it’s not going to change its tactic. Cybersecurity is not your worry with a virus. It’s a biological phenomenon.”
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