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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 17 November 2017

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Dear everyone

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of the Scottish Government’s intention to set a minimum unit price for the sale of alcohol, which when implemented will be a world first. Our evidence review in 2016, published in The Lancet, supported minimum unit pricing as the most effective way of targeting the cheapest and strongest alcohol favoured by the young and the heaviest drinkers. Raising the price of these currently cheap drinks makes no difference to pubs and clubs or the great majority of people who enjoy alcohol. Congratulations to Scotland for setting a high bar for the rest of us.

On Thursday a ground-breaking devolution deal In London was signed by the Mayor of London, Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, London Councils, NHS England, Public Health England and wider health and care leaders. The London Devolution Memorandum of Understanding is the largest of its kind in England and localising decision-making to London will bring many benefits, as well as providing new opportunities to act early in preventing some of the city’s biggest health challenges. For example the NHS in London will be incentivised to sell unused land and buildings, with money reinvested in health and care, community and public services and surplus land will be available to develop more housing.

PHE brings together the most comprehensive gathering of public health experts and practitioners, ranging from molecular biology and whole genome sequencing, to nutrition science and our work on cancer and rare diseases. Or in a nutshell, from Zika to sugar. I have enjoyed time this week at Porton and Colindale, our national science campuses for infectious diseases, witnessing their extraordinary work, almost invisible through competence, in protecting the UK public and in providing a service to the NHS for the most complex investigations. It is always energising and humbling to see first-hand the breadth and depth of the work PHE does and how talented our colleagues are.

Two independent reviews have been published today, both commissioned by PHE, which have important implications and opportunities. The McNeil Review, jointly commissioned by NHS Digital, which was asked to look at our data collections and a Digital Review which assessed our readiness to make the most of digital thinking and technology. Certainly when implemented they will position PHE at the leading edge of a fast changing world where knowledge is highly prized and the public, and policy and decision makers, look for this in ways and places we could not have hitherto imagined.

This has been a busy week for HIV Prevention. On Monday, Steve Brine MP, Minister for Public Health and Primary Care, announced the twelve successful projects supported by PHE’s HIV Innovation Prevention Fund. The launch event took place at the Houses of Parliament, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for HIV and AIDs. The fund is now in its third year and supports exciting new interventions that can be scaled up. On Wednesday, Prince Harry launched National HIV Testing Week, a key event in HIV prevention campaigns supported by PHE. Also on Wednesday, PHE published two reports which highlight the progress made in England and on achieving the United Nations AIDS targets in London, declines in HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men and increased HIV testing. I would like to thank all those involved in this promising progress.

And finally, this week we launched the latest version of Health Matters, our monthly professional resource, this time focusing on preventing infections and reducing antimicrobial resistance.  This is timely, as this week is World Antibiotics Awareness Week and there are blogs, videos and infographics available to download on the subject, so please do have a look.

With best wishes,





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


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