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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 31 August 2018

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Dear everyone

I hope many of you have enjoyed a good and restful summer break.

I am delighted to say that we have a new Chair for the PHE Advisory Board, Dame Julia Goodfellow. Dame Julia was previously Chair of the British Science Association and was also president of Universities UK from 2015 to 2017 and is currently president of the Royal Society of Biology. Dame Julia will be replacing Sir Derek Myers who has been our interim Chair for the past 18 months and I am equally delighted to say that Derek will be staying on our advisory board. Read our press release for more information.

Earlier this year when announcing a new five year funding settlement for the NHS, the Prime Minister asked the health family to come up with a Long Term Plan for the NHS including outcomes and improvements that can be delivered over the next ten years. This is now very much underway and PHE will be leading on the prevention, inequality and personal responsibility strand with senior colleagues from the NHS. We will additionally be contributing to many of the other 13 work streams including those on mental health, cancer, cardiovascular disease and early years and working hand in glove with NHS England and NHS Improvement in making prevention and population health the cornerstone of this new plan. The intention is to have a clear set of proposals across the work streams for the end of September and then to bring these together to develop a clear, costed, ambitious and deliverable plan during October and November. I will be speaking to these themes more at the NHS Expo Conference next week and at our own PHE Conference at Warwick in mid-September.

It is now well established that the home we live in influences our health. When new homes are being built, health and wellbeing should be factored in and this week NHS England announced a new partnership with some of the top housing developers in the country. The Healthy New Towns Network, which was set up in partnership with PHE, is the first of its kind and aims to improve health by creating healthier places that offer better choices and chances of living well. This will also allow new and innovative ways to be explored for tackling some of our biggest health and social care challenges, such as dementia and social isolation. You can learn more on the NHS England website.

There are over 16,000 deaths from bowel cancer in the UK each year and early detection is key to survival. Earlier this month following a comprehensive review of the evidence, the National Screening Committee recommended that bowel cancer screening in England should start ten years earlier and this has been accepted by Government. In the future, people will be invited to screening aged 50, rather than 60 as of now. The risk of bowel cancer rises steeply from around age 50 to 54 so this drop in screening age will over time help spot more abnormalities at an early stage and save lives. The top priority is to roll out the faecal immunochemical home test kit (FIT), a new, more user-friendly test, into our existing national bowel screening programme from the autumn. Our news story has further information.

You might not have heard of it but familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) is a common genetic condition which affects all ages and one in every 250 people. It causes high levels of cholesterol in the blood, resulting in an increased risk of heart disease at a young age. Without a diagnosis, affected individuals are unaware of their high risk status and so do not receive potentially life-saving advice and cholesterol-lowering treatment. PHE has published an implementation guide with NICE, NHS England, British Heart Foundation and HEART-UK, to support NHS commissioners and providers to implement the recommendations of the recently updated NICE Guidance on FH. Our blog explains more about this and how the health sector can improve FH detection and management.

And finally, congratulations to PHE’s Simon Bouffler, head of our radiation effects department, who was awarded the Weiss medal by the Association for Radiation Research in Belfast. This is awarded to individuals who have made distinguished contributions to radiation science and is of singular credit to him.

Best wishes


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

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  1. Comment by Pascale Berthellet posted on

    I am very pleased to see that the Healthy New Towns Network was set up in partnership with PHE. I assume that consultations will be taking place with people. I do hope that children and young people will be consulted as well.
    I work in schools to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. Home and surroundings are aspects young people often refer to.