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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 2 March 2018

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Dear everyone

There is no other way to begin this week other than saying thank you to local authorities and to every person across the health and social care family who has battled the so called ‘Beast from the East’ to keep people safe and well during treacherous weather conditions. It takes determination, careful planning and quite literally grit to ensure vital services are kept up and running for the public during wintry spells as bad as this one. You can find our advice on staying warm and well here.

Five years ago, NHS public health services returned to local government after a 40-year interregnum. With this came a new statutory duty to improve the health of the people, and they have taken this on with pace and ambition. It is now common practice for local authorities to put the public’s health at the heart of their planning and policies. This week, the Local Government Association published a new report called ‘Public health transformation – five years on’, which presents case studies on the transformation work of local public health teams and how they are integrating services and improving outcomes. Local government have weathered the most fiscally demanding ask of any public service and we do not recognise enough the innovative work that has been taken forward, not despite the financial challenge, but often because of it. See the full report here.

Antibiotics are critical to modern medicine and have been saving millions of lives since their introduction in the 1940s. However in recent times resistance has accelerated and this is in part associated with the overall quantum of prescribing – essentially the more that gets prescribed, the greater the resistance. The good news is that prescribing has dropped by 5% since 2012, less good is that PHE research published this week shows that 1 in 5 prescriptions are inappropriate. England has a national ambition to cut inappropriate prescribing by 50%, so from this data we have a baseline that we can track progress against and we will continue to support the health system in meeting this objective.

There is currently an outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria, a haemorrhagic illness that is normal for the country but currently circulating at unusually high rates. Following a request from the Government of Nigeria, the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST), jointly run by PHE and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, deployed to southern Nigeria this week. The team includes epidemiologists, clinicians and logisticians, who will provide technical support to the Nigerian Government, World Health Organisation, and other partners. The UK-PHRST continually monitors infectious diseases and other hazards globally, identifying situations where the deployment of specialist expertise could prevent these threats from turning into a global outbreak. Our press release has more information.

Placing communities at the heart of the public’s health can empower people, create connected and resilient communities, engage those most at risk of poor health and reduce health inequalities. Our latest edition of Health Matters, which was launched on Wednesday, focuses on community assets and the Family of Community-Centred Approaches, a framework developed to represent some of the practical and evidence-based options that can be used to improve community health and wellbeing. This was a record breaker with more than 350 people on the call. You can see the full edition here and learn more in our blog.

And finally, in England every year there are 800 million biomedical investigations and PHE is one of the largest providers of NHS pathology services, meaning our laboratories are incredibly busy at all times. Pathology is a vital cog in the treatment pathway and this week, thanks to excellent partnership work between PHE and the North Bristol NHS Trust, a new state of the art pathology laboratory was opened at Southmead Hospital.  Thanks to everyone who worked hard to get this operational; and to our joint teams who process around 5,000 samples every day in North Bristol alone.

With best wishes,





Friday messages from 2012-2017 are available on GOV.UK

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  1. Comment by Ross McEwan posted on

    Shame there was no specific thanks to PHE staff Duncan for the efforts they made in getting to work this week.