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Duncan Selbie's Friday message – 7 July 2017

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Dear everyone

Vaccination is second only to clean water in saving and preserving life and is at the heart of an effective public health system. This matters just as much in an affluent society, but may sometimes be forgotten.

Since 2009 there has been a large increase in group W meningococcal (MenW) disease in England, sadly resulting in several deaths in teenagers. To protect against this disease and keep young people as safe and well as possible, the MenACWY vaccine was introduced in 2015.

This week, we have been working to highlight the MenACWY vaccination programme and to spread the message of its availability as widely as possible. The vaccine protects against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia and is given to teenagers who are in school years 9 or 10 and is available to young adults who missed the vaccination up to their 25th birthday.

The programme saw 2 million eligible young people get vaccinated in its first 18 months and the vaccine has a 100% effectiveness rate so far. Thank you to all those who work tirelessly within PHE and the NHS to protect people through vaccination, a quiet but superbly effective public health intervention.

Lung cancer, heart disease and lung disease cause more than 150,000 deaths in England each year but early diagnosis can save lives and improve the quality of life of those living with conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a common form of lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Yesterday we launched the latest phase of our national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ awareness campaign prompting people with symptoms of some of the leading causes of death in England, such as breathlessness and a persistent cough, to see their doctor.

To spread awareness and reach as many people as possible, this campaign is being promoted by national and regional PR activity, social media, shopping centre events and national TV advertising. We will be following this up with a rigorous evaluation.

PHE scientists are leaders in their field, tackling global health problems and guiding and influencing government policy. Learning and development is an extremely important part of working at PHE and we want to ensure our scientists are getting the best opportunities possible.

Our National Infection Service has organised a series of workshops with our scientists to give us a better understanding of what they need for technical and professional development, and highlight any barriers and practical solutions to help make sure we make the best of our staff.

These are important in light of the Government Science and Engineering Profession Strategy which looks at how we can raise the profile of the career paths that come under the GSE umbrella, while ensuring professional development opportunities are available for every role. Workshops will be taking place later this month at our scientific campuses in Porton and Colindale.

This week London’s leaders committed to work with Londoners to tackle stigma towards and discrimination of mental health problems. Including PHE London, Thrive London​ brought together over 200 experts, voluntary, public and private organisations, clinicians and academics to spearhead a citywide campaign that will ultimately support people in the capital to lead healthier, happier lives. This fantastic initiative will work with schools, organisations and employers alongside innovative digital technology for support and access to services.

PHE aims to be a place where people can do their best work and that means we welcome and celebrate diversity. I am personally committed to ensuring that all of our LGBT staff are valued and feel they have an exceptional place to come to work every day, and I want to see this ambition reflected at all levels of the organisation.

A range of work is ongoing to ensure that we are continually improving our offer to staff, including the introduction of our first LGBT Mentoring Circle, led by two of our senior LGBT staff; expanding membership of our PHE Rainbow Alliance (PHERA) and our PHERA Allies Network and the development of our trans inclusion policy to better support our trans staff, to name a few. You can read more about this in our blog, one of a series published this week ahead of London Pride festival, which begins this weekend.

And finally, today marks our purchase of the former GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) site in Harlow, which will be the home of our new headquarters and world-class centre for public health science.

This means we can get on with the necessary detailed surveys and demolition work and our next step will be to submit a planning application later this summer.

With best wishes,




Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK

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